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Literature / My Father's Dragon

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The My Father's Dragon series is a trilogy of children's adventure/fantasy chapter books. The first book, My Father's Dragon, was written by Ruth Stiles Gannett and originally published in 1948. In 1949, it was runner up for the Newbery Medal and was followed by two sequels, Elmer and the Dragon (1950) and The Dragons of Blueland (1951). The books are filled out with whimsical illustrations by the author's mother, Ruth Chrisman Gannett. There is a 1997 anime film based on the series, but it has been largely forgotten and fallen into obscurity.

The story begins with the main character, Elmer Elevator, meeting a scruffy old alley cat one rainy night. In an act of kindness that surprises the cat, Elmer takes her home and cares for her. Though his mother makes him get rid of it, the cat is touched enough by his deed to return the favor. Upon finding out that it has always been his dream to fly airplanes when he grows up, the cat informs Elmer there is a way he can do that now.


Though she is old now, she used to go on many trips exploring the world. One of her last travels took her to a strange and dangerous place known as Wild Island. Populated by various strange and feral beasts, no man dares go to it for fear of what horrors may be in store. One of the most fascinating and saddest inhabitants of the island is a little baby dragon, who hurt his wing and fell out of the sky. Once the animals found him, instead of aiding the dragon, they decided to hold him prisoner and use him as a ferry to cross the river.

Shocked by this, Elmer decides to go a rescue the dragon. With just a few house hold items, he sets out for Wild Island.

You may enjoy the first for free, courtesy of Project Gutenberg.


Tropes used throughout this series:

  • Alliterative Name: Elmer Elevator.
  • Alliterative Family: Presuming that they're a family, the little group of monkeys on Wild Island: Rosie, Rhoda, Rachel, Ruthie, Ruby, and Roberta.
  • Anthropic Principle: The protagonist is a small child who eventually became the narrator's father, therefore the readers know from the start that he must successfully escape the island in the end.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Elmer packs quite the bag, bringing chewing gum, two dozen pink lollipops, a handful of rubber bands, a pair of black rubber boots, a compass, a toothbrush, six magnifying glasses, a very sharp jackknife, a comb and a hairbrush, seven hair ribbons of different colors, an empty grain bag with a label saying "Cranberry," some clean clothes, and twenty-five peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Almost all of it helps him get past all the animals on the island. Justified, as the Cat has been there before him, and she is telling him what to bring.
  • Embarrassing First Name: The dragon does not like his first name Boris.
  • Herald: The cat.
  • Interspecies Friendship: Elmer and the Dragon become incredibly close friends following the events of the first book.
  • Jumped at the Call: Elmer.
    • And in the third book.
  • Kindhearted Cat Lover: Again, Elmer.
  • Laborious Laziness: The animals on the island don't want to go all the way around the river to cross it, so that's why they took the baby dragon prisoner.
  • Little Stowaway: Elmer does this to get to the island.
  • Meaningful Name: Mr. Wagonwheel, who is a farmer and uses a wagon as his main port of transportation.
  • Narrator: Used only for the first book; the story is told by the nameless child of Elmer. The last two books are in third person.
  • No Name Given: The cat. She is always the cat and never gets a name, even after Elmer and his family officially take her in.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: They're actually quite friendly, but are extremely shy, and eat mostly plants. They're also brightly colored, varying from plain blue and green to polka dots.
  • Rhino Rampage: Elmer is attacked by an angry rhino...who is upset that someone is trying to drink out of his weeping pool.
  • Sweet Tooth: Many of the characters love sweets. Particularly, the tigers and crocodiles who are foiled with the use of bubblegum and lollipops.
  • Talking Animal: All of the animals introduced.