Thursday, November 19, 2009

Read-Aloud Thursday: My Father's Dragon and sequels

Granted, I haven't been reading chapter books to my kids (ages 5 1/2 and 2 1/2) for that long (this was only our third, fourth, and fifth selections), but My Father's Dragon, along with the subsequent stories Elmer and the Dragon and The Dragons of Blueland, were instant hits at our house. How do my children (and I) love them? Let me count the ways...

1. These are page turners for the preschool and early elementary set. Each chapter ends with enough suspense that it was immediately met with "Can we read another chapter? Just one more, please." What a way to foster an excitement for reading!

2. The chapters are short, but full of fantastic adventures. Thus, the story moves very quickly. Even I wanted to find out what would happen next, if the truth be told. Taking these first two points into account, it only took us a little over a week to read the three books (242 pages in the one volume edition).

3. There are lots of pictures in each short chapter; in fact, it is pretty rare to have a two-page spread of all text. Although they are fairly simple black and white drawings, the illustrations give enough visual representation to the story to make it come alive, while leaving plenty of room for the imagination, too. I also liked the maps on the end pieces, which were nicely illustrated and clearly labeled, so that we could follow along to see where the story was taking place (learning basic map skills, too).

4. Elmer is an ordinary boy, and many of his adventures involve animals that children would recognize. I think younger children appreciate an element of familiarity along with fantasy and mystical creatures. Although encountering tigers, lions, and alligators could be frightening, Elmer's ingenuity and resourcefulness quickly resolve potential dangers. Even the dragon is only a baby dragon, and one with blue and yellow stripes, red feet, and gold wings.

5. My 2 1/2 year-old boy was ENGAGED in these stories. He listened attentively and asked pertinent questions about the story line. This is a marked difference from our last read-aloud The Trumpet of the Swan, which was probably a little above his comprehension level.

6. These stories were memorable, so much so that any mention of a dragon, and my son cries, "I want to read about Elmer and the dragon!" I hope all other dragon stories are not a disappointment to him in the future.

7. Not only is this a great read-aloud, but I think it will also be one of the first chapter books my daughter will want to read on her own. She's currently reading Little Bear aloud to me among other things, but I look forward to the day when I find her sprawled on her bed or curled up on the couch with a good book. The Three Tales of My Father's Dragon would be an ideal "big" book to start with for the reasons listed above, especially the short chapters, as it would help her to find independent reading fun instead of tedious.

So, if you have young readers, get thee to thy library or bookstore and find My Father's Dragon. Your kids will thank you!

(I couldn't get the "Read-Aloud Thursday" button to work, but if you'd like to read more reviews of great read-aloud books, please check out Hope is the Word.)


Anonymous said...

I agree. We haven't read all of these; the library doesn't have them all. But we've read the first one, and it was greatly enjoyed. I agree with your observations.


Amy said...

Oh, I'm sorry you couldn't get the button to work! Was it a problem with the html?

We love the dragon books around the House of Hope, too! You delineated very well what makes them perfect first read-alouds. What a treasure they are that even your 2 1/2 year old was enraptured!

So glad you joined in Read Aloud Thursday!

Anonymous said...

We are currently reading My Father's Dragon (the second book Elmer and the Dragon) - and they are indeed fantastic.

Full of suspense, chapters end at the right place (cliff-hangers) and full of fantasy.

Great read-alouds indeed!

Read Aloud Dad