A mention by Jennifer, over at the Jean Little Library, lead me to seek out David and the Phoenix, by Edward Ormondroyd (1957). This is one of those books that I wish I'd found as a child.*
When David and his family move to a new house, David is drawn to the "mountain" that rises above it. As soon as he can escape from the unpacking, he is climbing it. There he meets the Phoenix, a somewhat elderly bird with a great sense of his own wonderfulness. The two become friends, and the Phoenix promises to take David under his wing, and further his education in matters mythological. First, however, the Phoenix must get his wing muscles back in shape.
But while David and the Phoenix visit griffins, race a witch, and call on a retired banshee, danger is coming closer. A Scientist is hot on the trail of the Phoenix, fiercely determined to shot and stuff him to further the cause of science....
This is one of those gentle, engrossing, magical books that a 9 year old might fall for hard. I will boldly go so far as to say it is timeless. The Phoenix is funny, it is easy to imagine oneself in David's shoes, and the points the book makes--that fantasy is worth caring about, and that some things are more important than science, are ones that it is hard for me to argue against. And as is the case with many older fantasy books, there's an episodic structure to the plot that makes it a great one for reading aloud.
I'd especially recommend this one to fans of Rosemary Manning's Green Smoke, which probably won't mean a thing to American readers, but those in the UK will know what I mean. It's about a girl who becomes friends with an elderly dragon, and coincidentally was also published in 1957.
It can be downloaded for free, but was reprinted recently and is readily available.
So now I know of two books in the phoenix sub-genre of children's fantasy--this one, and E. Nexbit's The Phoenix and the Carpet. Any others?
*(mainly these seem to be by authors in the middle of the alphabet, because I would start every summer at the As and the Zs in my quest to read every book in the children's section).