My Father’s Dragon

For family read alouds, I’m working my way back through chapter books that I read to my oldest children a few years ago.  Looking at our family dynamics, I realize I’ll get to to this again in a few years for my youngest ones.  The thought makes me almost giddy.  It’s an unexpected blessing for having a large family.  I get to enjoy children’s literature for many more years.  Hooray!

This little series of books is one of my favorites.  Written in 1948, My Father’s Dragon is the beginning of the story.

A boy tells the story of his father Elmer Elevator, (as a boy) stowing away on a ship to sail to the island of Tangerina.  From there he travels to Wild Island in search of a baby dragon he hopes to set free.  The problem is, no one has ever come back alive from Wild Island.  (Until now, that is, because Elmer obviously grew up to have a son of his own who could tell the story.)  Elmer is a proactive hero who manages to find a solution to every problem he encounters in his trusty knapsack.

The books are written by Ruth Stiles Gannett and illustrated by Ruth Chrisman Gannett.  The illustrations add a wonderful dimension to the creative story.

The second book, Elmer and the Dragon, was first published in 1950.  It is the story of how Elmer and the Dragon finally made it home (with some adventurous detours on the way).

The third, and last, book in the series chronicles Elmer’s adventure when he is asked to come help the dragon save his family.  It was published in 1951.

These books are treasures.  My children always listen, spellbound.  It’s common for the book to disappear for a day or two because someone quietly took it away to read more on their own.  Last night we finished My Father’s Dragon, and we’re beginning Elmer and the Dragon tonight.

So many of the best children’s books end up going out of print.  So far, this series is an exception.  If you don’t own it, I highly recommend them.


A Child’s Garden of Verses

Robert Louis Stevenson’s collection, A Child’s Garden of Verses, is truly a classic.  I’ve mentioned one of my favorites, Bed in Summer, before.  It’s a beautiful collection of verse.

Jessie Willcox Smith is also one of my favorite illustrators.  Imagine my delight when I found an old hardbound copy that was a joint effort from those two individuals!  With thick pages and gorgeous illustrations, it is truly a gem.

It has a copyright date of 1905, and an inscription dated December 1919.  Old enough that the letter “u” is printed like a “v”.  When I hold it I can’t help but wonder at the journey this book has had through many sets of loving hands to mine.  Black and white illustrations are on every page with color illustrations sprinkled throughout.

A few of my favorites:

Of all the unique characteristics of this little old gem, I might love the endpaper the most.  Open the cover, and this is the first thing you see.

Instead of blank paper, it’s covered with a wallpaper style illustration.  It takes my breath away.

I’d like an entire wall of it, please.  Better yet, can someone please reproduce this in a quilter’s cotton?  I’ll take several yards.  Seriously, this would be so cute on the back of a quilt!  I’ve got to think of something awesome to do with it.  Scrapbook paper would be an easy one, but I don’t scrapbook anymore.  Ideas, anyone?

For now, happy reading!

My New Favorite Book

We’ve been enjoying the beach for three days now, and I’ve read three books in that time.  800 pages in three days.  Not bad.   I guess that’s an indication that I’m remembering how to relax.  Two of them have been fiction, and one is a parenting book.  Incredibly, I left my Henry Knox biography at home.  I have another allegorical fiction book that I’m going to start reading to my children tonight and an inspirational book that I’m half done with.  Other than that, I’ve already exhausted my reading materials for the week, and I haven’t even put the kids to bed on Wednesday night!  As big as that pile looked when I was packing, I’m wishing I’d brought more.  I may raid my Grandpa’s bookshelf for something or I may just read this one again.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
I know that I’m late on the scene, that this book has been out for a while now, and it’s probably already had it’s spotlight in the press and in book clubs and blogs all over the place.  I’ve been meaning to read it for a while but haven’t found time for leisure reading.  The hesitant review of a friend made me wonder if I’d like it, but at last I put my name on the request list at the library and my turn finally came.  Now that I’ve devoured it I have to pause and say that….

I loved it.

I enjoyed this book more than any other piece of fiction I’ve read in several years.  Granted, historical fiction is far more interesting to me than any other, and now I’m on a hunt for more concrete information about the Channel Islands during the German Occupation of World War II.  Even so, this was a wonderful read.  I loved reading a book written entirely in letters.  I loved reading about how each character was sustained in different ways by powerful books.  I loved the way the characters were regular old people doing their best to live right.  I just plain loved it.

One of my favorite things about reading is when a good book sends you right off to another book, or two or three.  And, simple as it may sound, my favorite kind of book is one that makes me yearn to be a better person.  I’m happy to say that this book provided both.  Last month I purchased several books for reading this summer.  This one I checked out of the library.  When I get home, I’m selling some of the others and buying a copy of  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society.  I liked it that much.

Indeed, it’s my new favorite book.  If you haven’t already read it, I hope you will.


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