Is a Fire-Breathing Dragon Friend or Foe?

April 30, 2010

Dragons have a long and storied track record as enemies of humankind, with a particular aversion to knights in shining armor. They are known for their ability to subdue entire populations with one fiery exhalation. And yet, their status as terrifying monsters par excellence has done nothing, it seems, to diminish their following among preschool-age children. The medieval world may have trembled before these legendary reptilian beasts, but not so our modern-day tots.

On the contrary, friendships with dragons hold a treasured place in the imaginative world of contemporary childhood. Some of our very favorite stories tell of the bond between a child and an improbably cuddly dragon. And now, better late than never, Hollywood has caught on to the trend. The newly released How To Train Your Dragon, based on Cressida Cowell's immensely popular book series, promises to give kids and parents a wild, soaring ride on the back of a friendly dragon (in 3D no less!). But before you rush out to the movies, be sure to acquaint your little ones with some of these classic, wonderful books about dragon-kid relationships.

Puff, the Magic Dragon by Petter Yarrow and Jenny Lipton. We dare you to sing this beloved song and turn these gorgeous pages without getting a little misty eyed. Just try. Included: CD of songwriter Peter Yarrow and his daughter Bethany singing this and other beautiful tunes!

My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett. We've recommended this fantastical tale more than once, and will surely do so again. It's one of our kids' very favorite early chapter books.

The Pet Dragon by Christoph Niemann. Kittens and puppies are quite adorable, but for a truly exciting pet, why not try raising a baby dragon? But first, we suggest reading about how the lovely heroine Lin fares with hers, and learning a bit of Chinese in the process.

The Knight and the Dragon by Tomie dePaola. Everyone says that knights and dragons are supposed to do battle to the death. Well, some have tried it and found that they'd rather open a restaurant together. Hey - it takes all kinds, right? And these kinds make for a superb and funny story.

The Tale of Custard the Dragon by Ogden Nash
A dragon named Custard? Really? He is, in fact, soft and sweet and he trembles with fear at the slightest danger. But with brave Belinda by his side, this dragon finds his courage. Ogden Nash's clever, silly verse is not-to-be-missed.

There's No Such Thing As A Dragon by Jack Kent. If your child came to you and said that he'd found a baby dragon in his room, what would you say? And if that dragon, ignored by all, grew and grew until it was bigger than your house, what would you say then? A cautionary tale for all dragon doubters, and one of our enduring favorites.

Now some of you may be saying, enough of these cozy creatures, let's hear a story about the evil dragons of yore! And so we give you:

St George and the Dragon by Margaret Hodges and Trina Shart Hyman. Adapted from an episode in Spenser's The Faerie Queen, this is the harrowing tale of princess Una's quest to find a champion who will fight the dragon that threatens her realm. The Red Cross Knight takes up her challenge, and an epic battle between knight and dragon ensues. A beautiful adaptation of one of the great literary classics.

From the Parents

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