May 4, 2012 § 2 Comments
How do chewing gum, hair ribbons, and six magnifying glasses help a little boy rescue an enslaved baby dragon on a wild island of ferocious talking animals? There are few early chapter books written with as much wit, cleverness, and heart as Ruth Stiles Gannett’s beloved trilogy, first published over 60 years ago: My Father’s Dragon, Elmer and the Dragon, & The Dragons of Blueland (Ages 4-9). With short digestible chapters, about 200 words per page, and enchanting black-and-white sketches peppered throughout, they are perfect for reading aloud. JP and I started these books on a recent train ride to New York and finished them a few days later, only to start them over again. At the heart of the stories is the relationship between Elmer and his dragon, an evolving friendship that brings out the best in both parties. But the real draw for kids is the adventure (no shortage of “close-calls”) and the magic (who doesn’t love thinking about riding on the back of a flying dragon?). We’re Map Obsessed in our house, and printed inside the front and back covers of the trilogy are child-friendly maps that allow you to trace Elmer’s voyage across the Island of Tangerina, Popsicornia, Wild Island, Spiky Mountain Range, and Nevergreen City. Seriously, why don’t more chapter books have maps like this? They lend a visual cohesion to the story, plus they give the (not yet reading) child something that they can grasp independently of the adult. You know an author really “gets” it when your four and a half year old is biking to school shouting out, “Now we’re entering Popsicornia! Look out for the Awful Desert!” For a few weeks there, we were even arriving at school early.
Other Favorite Read-Aloud Chapter Books for Your Adventure Seeker:
The Mouse and the Motorcycle (Ages 5-10), by Beverly Cleary
The Cricket in Times Square (Ages 5-10), by George Selden
James and the Giant Peach (Ages 5-10), by Roald Dahl