My Father’s Dragon
Author: Ruth Stiles Gannett
Publisher: Random House Incorporated
2nd Grade Reading Level
Copyright Date: 1948
Length: 77 Pages
Plot Summary: My Father’s Dragon is the story of a young boy who rescues a baby dragon from captivity. The main character, Elmer Elevator, meets a talking cat, and brings him home. His mother, who hates cats, forbids the boy to feed the cat. The boy does anyways, and is whipped by his mother. The cat and the boy escape to the park, where the cat tells Elmer of a magical island named Wild Island, and a baby dragon that is held captive and beaten regularly. The boy decides to runs away on a quest to help to the baby dragon, aided by the advice of the talking cat. Stowing away on a ship, he hides in rucksack with the name of his destination on it. The sailors instpect the oddly shaped bag and determine he is a bag of corn on the cob. Arriving at Tangerine Island, he meets a fisherman who tells him of the perils of Wild Island. The boy doesn't heed his warning, and continues on his journey. He crosses the great ocean on a set of stepping stones, late at night. When he reaches Wild Island, he has many encounters with potentially lethal animals. In each instance, he uses his imagination and random items from his backpack to escape them. He gives chewing gum to a group of tigers, who try to plant them in the attempt to grow gum trees. He gives a rhinoceros toothpaste to clean his tusk. Elmer helps an upset lion braid his mane with colored ribbons. He provides six magnifying glasses to help find flees on a distraught gorilla, and gives lollypops to a group of crocodiles so they won’t eat him. Elmer, tying the lollypops to the crocodiles’ tails, uses them as a bridge to get to the baby dragon. The animals finally find out what is happening, and begin to cross the crocodile bridge. Because the first crocodile finishes his lollypop, all the crocodiles move away, with the animals still on their backs. This allows the boy and the dragon to fly away, determined to never visit Wild Island again.
My Reaction: I think this is a cute book that tells the story of a kid coping with child abuse. The boy, seeing the dragon as a symbol of himself, goes to save him, and in doing so, is able to regain a sense of freedom, identity and stability. I think this book is an excellent example of fantasy, in that it takes a real life problem, and uses imagination to. The book emphasizes positive thinking and problem solving to overcome problems, instead of revenge or negative emotions, which helps teach children how to react with dignity and maturity.
Potential Problems: In My Father’s Dragon, the mother whips her child, which parents may object to their children reading about abusive parents. The boy runs away from home, which might concern parents with children who struggle with running away. Also, the boy stows away on a ship, without paying for fare, which might teach children an acceptance for not paying for services. The animals also threaten to kill the boy, which violence might be frightening to certain children.
Recommendations: I would recommend this book to parents and teachers who wish to teach children how to deal with difficult situations. I also think this book would prove to be an excellent escape and catharsis for children from troubled homes or backgrounds.