Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Reluctant Dragon by Kenneth Grahame

The Reluctant DragonWell, if it took us more than two months to finish The Railway Children, which was time well-spent, we breezed through The Reluctant Dragon in a matter of days. My kids were engaged enough in the story to comment on how it differed from the old Disney animated version, to study the pencil-sketch illustrations intently, and to request it every night until we were through. Actually, I think my children will sit and listen to just about anything - at least they've never asked to quit reading a book and move on to another one, so that's probably no indication of a book's quality.

This is a short little book without chapters, but a little too long to finish in one sitting. I had to find some logical breaks to keep bedtime at a reasonable hour, much to the dismay of my daughter who asked, "Do we have to end with 'Goodnight' again?" There is a simple cast of characters: the dragon, an unnamed Boy, and St. George take center-stage, with a sheperd and his wife (the Boy's parents) in supporting roles and a host of villagers as extras. The sonnet-spouting dragon is clearly no threat to society, but the villagers have convinced themselves that he is a terrible menace and scourge upon their fair land. Meanwhile, the boy has befriended the dragon and feels that he must intervene when Saint George appears to fight the deadly beast. After explaining the dragon's true retiring nature and the exaggerations of the villagers, the boy introduces the knight to the dragon and helps them arrange things in an altogether satisfactory manner.

There's some subtle humor in this tale, as it obviously plays upon the classic formula of knights conquering dragons and rescuing fair maidens. A Princess is sadly missing, however, since the Boy couldn't arrange everything as the dragon and Saint George expected him to, especially when his mother was waiting up for him. It's all right as dragon stories go, though not nearly so adventurous as My Father's Dragon, nor so witty and charming as Grahame's classic The Wind in the Willows (linked to my reviews).

Read-Aloud Thursday at Hope Is the Word
Amy and her girls read The Reluctant Dragon earlier this year, and you can check out her Read Aloud Thursday review here. I'd like to see the illustrations in the volume that they read, and maybe we'll check it out again when we study Medieval history next year.


Carrie said...

We love this story! (The book AND the old Disney classic.) Such a fun one!

Annette W. said...

I know you have a 7 and 4 year old. This sounds appropriate for a a 4 year old...would you agree?

Page Turner said...

Annette, the edition we read didn't have a lot of pictures, so it might depend on how your 4-year-old does with longer books and few pictures. But definitely give it a try! I saw that our library also had a picture book that is based on the full story, so that might be a good introduction. My kids were also familiar with it from the Disney short film, so they knew what was happening even if the language was a little beyond them.

Drafts for 5MfM said...

(Hey, trying to find your address in my inbox but can't seem to. You won one of the April Fool's contests on my blog. Would you mind shooting me an e-mail with your contact info? Thanks!)