The Book of Dragons
by E. Nesbit, published 1900
“Then Lionel felt he had indeed done it. He had not been king twenty-four hours and already he had let loose a red dragon to worry his faithful subject’s lives out. And they had been saving up so long to buy him a crown…”
Time to admit I’m hooked on E. Nesbit, after discovering her practically in my second childhood! So each time I see another children’s book by her on the library shelf, I grab it, wondering if she could possibly be consistently good. And so far, the answer is, Yes! The Book of Dragons is one of her earliest children’s books, written as a collection of short stories, eight to be exact, each about a different kind of dragon. Each tale is unusual, and each has her unique style of talking to the reader as if the child is sitting right next to her, listening to the weaving of another magical tale.
With this collection of Dragon tales, I sense more than ever Nesbit’s gift as a weaver of fairy tales, with an ever-so-slight modern twist. She is a master (mistress?) of creating tales that seem as if they are timeless, as if they had never been written, but always told in an oral form. For that reason, this book especially lends itself to read-aloud. I didn’t have the book with me when I visited my grandson, but we listened to a free audio version of the first story, and it was entrancing to hear it. As I think of my training as a Waldorf teacher about the art of storytelling, I realize that Nesbit instinctively knew how to create pictures in her stories that fuel the imagination. If your child likes Dragons, this is a must-have collection.
Please note, as with almost all Nesbit books, there are a lot of bad versions out there. The search on Amazon is particularly poor.