Posted by: Lizzie Ross | June 18, 2010

Classic Friday: Ruth Stiles Gannett

My Father’s Dragon + sequels (1948-1951), Ruth Stiles Gannett, illus. Ruth Chrisman Gannett, 3 vols.

I can remember when I first read this trilogy. I was in the 4th grade, and found the books in the school library. The cover illustration — with a lion’s mane neatly braided and tied with seven colored bows, and a young boy (Elmer Elevator) admiring it — fascinated me. The story inside lived up to the promise of that cover illustration, and I continue to reread it and its sequels every few years.

The basic plot is this: Elmer Elevator learns from a cat that a baby dragon is being cruelly used as a flying ferry for some lazy animals on Wild Island. Elmer finds his way to the island and manages to outwit all the animals — including a suspicious boar who can’t quite get ahead of Elmer — and rescue the dragon.

The sequels tell the further adventures of Elmer and the baby dragon, as they travel to Tangerina and Feather Islands, and to the dragon’s home, Blueland (which is just a bit west of Elmer’s home in Popsicornia).

Gannett’s stepmother illustrated these three volumes with realistic black and white drawings that somehow match the humor and whimsy of the tales. The rhinoceros looks real enough, with its wrinkles, saggy eye pouches and huge ears — but look at how it holds the toothbrush between its fat toes. I don’t even want to think how the rhino got the toothpaste onto the toothbrush’s bristles.

My Father’s Dragon, Elmer and the Dragon, The Dragons of Blueland

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