Dragon Books

My boys are both dragon obsessed, and over the years we've amassed quite a few books featuring the creatures (not counting Guidebook to Mythical Creatues genre). I toyed with the idea of making a list of dragon picture books, but checking on google showed it had already been done here. But here are some dragon books that didn't it make it into that list (I think--there were so many books listed I floundered) :

The Sons of the Dragon King: A Chinese Legend (2004) by Ed Young

The 9 sons of the Dragon King have left home and gone their seperate ways, but word comes to their father that none of them are behaving as his sons should! Disguised, the Dragon King visits each one in turn, and sees in what each son is doing a chance for a meaningful contribution to the kingdom. Each son still caries out his job to this day. For instance, one son spends his time staring off into space--his father realizes he can become a watchman, and his character can be seen decorating the tops of buildings. Another son spent his time challenging peasants to feats of strength; today he can be seen on columns hold up trememdous weights. 9 sons, 9 paternal visits, 9 worthwhile jobs to do; 9 basically seperate stories on the same theme. The ink and cut paper illustrations show each new dragon before his new role, and after.

I was surprised to see that the reviews of this book on Amazon are somewhat less than enthusiastic about the chances that this book will appeal much to kids--not enough neat dragon pictures to carry the book for young kids, not enough "story" for older kids. I dunno. My small boys like it a lot as a read aloud book--I think small children are more prepared than some of us readers-out-loud might realize to accept books that come in bits, like separate beads on a string, where overarching narrative and character development are not important. And the theme of this book should resonate pretty powerfully--it is all about parental approval, and children finding their proper place where their talents are appreciated. I imagine them thinking, as each son finds his role, "good, there's another one all set." Comforting for them. An older child, reading it alone, might not get that same level of emotional reassurance from it.

The Book of Beasts by E. Nesbit and Inga Moore

Young Lionel is very surprised to find himself being made king--his ancestor had spent so much money on books that the crown had been sold, and only now had enough money been raised to by a new one and crown a new king. In the magnificent royal library, Lionel finds, and opens, The Book of Beasts. Out comes a dragon, who begins eating Lionel's unfortunate subjects...With the help of a beautiful hippogryph a few pages further, Lionel tricks the dragon back into the book and slams the cover shut, and all the people who had been eaten are squeezed back out again. Beautiful pictures, fun story. It's an abridgement of a longer story by E. Nesbit. There's another version of this illustrated by Michael Hauge Lionel and the Book of Beasts (2006), but I haven't read that one yet.

And finally, here's an out-of-print English chapter book (I figure new and in print books get plenty of room elsewhere)--Green Smoke, by Rosemary Manning. 8 year old Susan, vacationing at a beach in Cornwall, meets a dragon who lives in a cave. Lots of story telling (mainly King Arthur stories) and bun eating (many different flavours), with a visit to a mermaid thrown in. I liked it lots when I was young, and it worked well as a read aloud to my oldest boy. Don't bother with the sequels, though--not only are they even less available and more expensive, they are not as good. They have more Plot, which is not nearly as fun as the artless episodic charm of Green Smoke.

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