Monday, January 23, 2012

Happy Year of the Dragon!

Happy Chinese New Year! This year we are entering the Year of the Dragon -- 2012 will be the year of the Water Dragon. What does this mean to you? Read more about how this affects each sign in the Chinese Zodiac.

As for me, I enjoy sharing books featuring each animal yearly...some years are easier than others! There are many more enjoyable dragon books than ox books, for example :)

Please share your own suggestions and recommendations in the comments as well -- we each have our favourite discoveries. Each year I mainly stick to children's books, and this year is no different. Here are five of my favourite dragon books:

1. My Father's Dragon / Ruth Stiles Gannett

The 1948 classic about Elmer Elevator and his quest to free a baby dragon from Wild Island. He uses his cleverness to outwit the wild animals trying to stop him, by appealing to their vanity. The ending is particularly amusing in its choice of language.

2. A Book Dragon / Donn Kushner

A quiet tale of Nonesuch the dragon, whose family is wiped out during the War of the Roses. He shrinks to the size of a large insect to save himself, and finds a treasure to guard: a medieval Book of Hours. He accompanies this beautiful book throughout the centuries, ending up in the back room of an American bookstore in the 20th century. His life story is full of historical fact and intriguing side characters. Sadly, out of print, as far as I know.

3. The Secret in the Matchbox / Val Willis -- illustrated by John Shelley

Another book which is unaccountably out of print, this is a delightful picture book perfect for reading aloud. Bobby Bell takes a matchbox to school, one which has a dragon inside. Nobody believes him until he lets it out and it grows and it grows and it grows.... causing chaos galore! The illustrations, by John Shelley are also fabulous. See for example, the full grown dragon:

4. George and the Dragon / Chris Wormell

I love this book to distraction! Little George, a shy mouse, moves into a new cave right beside a dragon's lair. Upon unpacking, he finds that he has no sugar for his tea. Asking his new neighbour (a vicious princess-stealing dragon who happens to be terrified of mice) for a loan has repercussions George could never have imagined. A true delight, especially for tea lovers ;) And the illustrations are exquisite.

5. The Best Pet of All / David LaRochelle -- illustrated by Hanako Wakiyama

This is a cute story about a little boy who realllllly wants a dog, but his mother doesn't. She does say okay to a dragon, though... if he can find one. He finally does, at the drugstore. But is it a good pet? You'll have to read this to find out. The illustrations really make this book; they are vintage style and have great visual jokes in them -- the second to last page always makes me laugh.
Read it if you can... or you can listen to Reese Witherspoon reading it! (though the pictures are kind of hard to see)


  1. Those first two titles are among my favorite books. The rest look really fun, too!

  2. I had to laugh at your comment on ox books - I would think this would be a difficult one - you should have plenty to choose from this year.

  3. Oh, I've had that Kushner novel on my shelves for years; * now * I want to read it!

    Other dragon tales? Herb the Vegetarian Dragon is a fun picture book (he has a cookbook, too, but our family prefers the original story with the built-into-the-tale veggie soup recipe...a staple on our winter menu, straight from Herb's story to our kitchen).

    (For older readers? Naomi Novik's wonderful Temeraire stories, guaranteed to charm even the seemingly-non-dragon-lovers.)

    Love your lists!

  4. Jeane - there are so many delightful stories this year!

    Ann - there were certainly many more to choose from than in the Year of the Ox! ;) I had so many I had to really consider which ones to choose.

    BIP - Oh, how could I overlook Herb? Herb the Vegetarian Dragon is such fun, and such a favourite of mine. For obvious reasons, I guess :)


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