Newbery Project – My Father’s Dragon

My Father’s Dragon, which won a Newbery Honor in 1949, was the first in a trilogy of books about Elmer and the Dragon. I liked the first book My Father’s Dragon the best of the three. I can see why it won awards while the two sequels did not. Only ever referring to the main character as “my father” lent a perfect note to the cozy story. I missed that element when the other two books started calling him Elmer.

I also thought the plot of the first book (such as it was) was more distinguished as well. While it is very episodic in nature, it certainly achieves what it sets out to do. There is a classic flow to the book as Elmer is given a series of challenges which he overcomes one at a time using the eclectic supplies he originally packed. By contrast, the next two books seem a bit drab, as though reaching for a plot instead of just wandering through a magical world. I also liked that the numbers were always very particular. It’s never a bunch of alligators or a nice round number like ten, it’s always seventeen alligators or something like that.

That being said, however, I am not entirely sure that this book would have made it to my top list if I had been on the Newbery committee. Perhaps that it simply because its impact was watered down when I read all three books at once, and the second two books were not as good. It may also be that I am far more used to Newbery books leaning towards the older side of the crowd, and so don’t have as much reference to what is most distinguished in books for younger children. This was still a delightful story, however, and I would highly recommend it to young readers. It would also make an excellent read aloud for children just venturing into listening to longer works.

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