Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

My Father's Dragon #1

My Father's Dragon

Rate this book
Elmer Elevator (narrator's father as a boy) runs away with an old alley cat to rescue a flying baby dragon being exploited on a faraway island. With the help of two dozen pink lollipops, rubber bands, chewing gum, and a fine-toothed comb, Elmer disarms the fiercest of beasts on Wild Island.

96 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1948

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Ruth Stiles Gannett

55 books85 followers
Ruth Stiles Gannett wrote My Father's Dragon just a few years after her graduation from Vassar College in 1944.

She lives in Upstate New York.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
16,368 (43%)
4 stars
12,233 (32%)
3 stars
6,933 (18%)
2 stars
1,692 (4%)
1 star
755 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,200 reviews
Profile Image for Mischenko.
1,014 reviews97 followers
May 27, 2017
My Father's Dragon is a childhood favorite that will never get old. It's a perfect read out loud story for young readers. The black and white illustrations are delightful and it's a story that will be enjoyed forever. 5*****
Profile Image for Dawn Marie.
41 reviews8 followers
July 13, 2012
In the third grade, I met Mrs. Palombi, my favorite teacher ever. She taught us how to churn butter (you sit in a circle, pass around a bottle of heavy cream that everyone takes a turn shaking up, and spread the resulting curds on Ritz crackers), she brought a cotton candy machine to the Fall Festival (during the summer, she ran a beach shack that sold summer treats) and let you “roll your own” as big as you wanted, and every holiday she’d present us with little pins she crocheted herself to commemorate the occasion (a Jack O’ Lantern for Halloween, Santa for Christmas, a shamrock for St. Patrick’s day…). More than her big bubble of candyfloss bleachblonde hair and her Savage Tan, I remember her gravelly Virginia Slims voice.

Near the end of every school day, before the bell rang, Mrs. Palombi would turn the lights off, have us put our heads down and read to us from My Father’s Dragon, Mr. Popper’s Penguins and James and the Giant Peach. All three are favorites of mine, but I’m pimping Dragon first because it seems a bit more obscure.

Part of the reason that I’ve always liked the book is Ruth Stiles Gannett’s clever, sweet-tempered story, and the fact that it has some of the most charming illustrations I’ve ever seen—drawn by her step-mother, Ruth Chrisman Gannett. (My favorite is the one they generally use as the cover, which has always kind of tickled me – the book is called My Father’s Dragon, but the cover features a dandy Lion and no dragon to be seen. The endpage map of the islands is also especially adorable.)

The “father” of the title is one Elmer Elevator, polite, cool under fire, and an absolute sweetheart in a jaunty little cap. He makes friends with an alley cat who tells him about a baby dragon being held captive on Wild Island. Elmer resolves to rescue the dragon, and with the cat’s sage advice, carefully packs for his trip. With a little planning and an inventive spirit, Elmer sidesteps all manner of hazards (for example, menacing tigers can be placated with chewing gum and a little stretching of the truth—Elmer’s basically a kinder, gentler MacGuyver) and saves the day. If you have children of your own, or just dig patently endearing adventure stories, I can’t recommend My Father’s Dragon enough.

Profile Image for Spencer Orey.
527 reviews117 followers
June 8, 2019
Cool classic book with a fairytale logic. The language is a bit dated (it's from the 40s!), and there are threats of violence and real violence that's all a bit much. But my kid who is way too young for this book was riveted and made me read it in one sitting to see the animals and the dragon. So it's definitely doing something well.
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.7k followers
February 17, 2018
Delightful classic 1948 children's book for the 8-13 age range, with a retro vibe and old-fashioned illustrations. This is a great kid's fantasy about a boy's adventures with his dragon. My kids loved this book (and its two sequels) when they were young.

The narrator tells about his father's adventures when he was a boy. Elmer makes friends with a talking alley cat (talking animals being taken very much for granted here), and the cat tells him about a tropical island called Wild Island, cut nearly in half by a broad river infested with crocodiles. When a baby dragon falls from the sky, the animals on Wild Island tie him up and force him to ferry a raft back and forth across the river for their convenience. Clearly the little dragon needs a rescuer!

So Elmer packs up 25 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (and six apples) and stows away on a ship, off to Wild Island on a rescue issue. There are lots of talking animals on the island - some friendly, but mostly dangerous - and Elmer must use his courage and wits to save the baby dragon.

The two sequels are equally enjoyable. I suggest you get the book that has all three tales packaged together, for any young kids in your life. The first book is occasionally a Kindle freebie, and you can buy used copies of a combined volume with all three books on Amazon for pennies plus shipping.
Profile Image for KaleidoscopicCasey .
335 reviews161 followers
May 9, 2016
Overall, it was a lovely enough book that it is worth a read, but I don't think this is one we will revisit.

Both of my littles sat while we read this one over a few nights. It's not as long as some of the other books we've read so my three year old was able to stick around for most of it. This wasn't a favorite but they did stay engaged. I had heard such wonderful things about the story that I think I was expecting something a little different.
Plus a dragon... I mean, that's gotta be a win right?

The story was cute and there was plenty of silly fun and adventure on the island but there wasn't much to encourage the commentary that I have been enjoying while reading chapter books with my kiddos. They were most entertained by the tigers and the chewing gum (probably because I am a wretched mommy and rarely ever let them have gum, in fact I think the three year old has only ever had gum twice, and the 6 year old wasn't allowed to have any until he was five) and thought the final scene with all the animals in the river was funny. Overall, it was a lovely enough book that it is worth a read, but I don't think this is one we will revisit.

Best comment while reading
6 year old little: "Mom there are talking animals in this, that means it's fiction."
Profile Image for Drew Graham.
1,071 reviews32 followers
June 16, 2015
I loved this book as a kid, and I seem to recall it was the first chapter book I ever read. (Upon my discovery of the Table of Contents, I thought its purpose was so that you could go there and decide which chapter you wanted to read instead of having to read through the whole thing.) Years later I remember having loved it, but very little about the story or the characters, so I decided to give this short Newberry winner a quick read, and it was very quick indeed. Told from the point of view of the main character's son (referring to the adventures his father had as a boy), this is the story of Elmer Elevator's journey to Wild Island to rescue a baby dragon from the enslavement of the lazy and selfish animal inhabitants. Elmer is clever and brave, and uses the odd assortment of items in his knapsack in his quest to free the dragon.

This book took less than an hour to read, and I'm so glad I went back to it after all these years. It was wonderful! The plot is straightforward and there's some repetition in the events, but it's really fun to see how Elmer uses all the various things he packed and how he outsmarts the animals. There's just the right amount of danger for a young reader, and the ending is thrilling. The characters are simple, but well-defined and interesting. I mean, isn't Elmer Elevator just a great name for a character? There is the issue of Elmer sneaking away from home for days at a time, but it's excusable in context. I kind of expected the writing to be dated, but it seemed to me that this story could take place at any time. There are also illustrations aplenty, and they are delightful.

I think this is some kind of a perfect children's book. It's just as charming as I remember it being from my childhood, and I can't wait to read it aloud to my kids one day.
Profile Image for Karen.
114 reviews
February 23, 2011
Annabelle give it 4 Stars.

I thought it was a good book.
Because it was fun.
What made it fun?
The pictures, I loved looking at them.
What else?
The words. I liked reading them to get a chore done.
Would you recommend this book to others to read?
Yeah, I think other people would like this book.
Like who?
I think Adelyn and Trinity might like it.
What would they like about it?
I think they would sort of things some things would be a little silly.
What was silly?
Like, lions using brushes and combs and getting hair bows in their hair and getting braided.
Anything else?
Let me see... (flips through book) That somebody sleeps under a tree.
Anything else you want to share?
Yeah, I'll find it (flipping through book still). I think I'm almost to that part. Yep. Two boars thinking it was a trick, and it was not a trick.
What was not a trick?
What "My Father" did.
So, what was it? What did he do?
He used things in his knapsack to make it that the animals wouldn't be able to do the bad stuff they do to humans, to him.
Sounds like a trick to me!
Well, it was a trick to the animals! But not to me.
Got it!

I enjoyed this book too. We gave it to Annabelle for her birthday and she and I enjoyed reading it together today. She read the first paragraph of every chapter, except the first one, and I read the rest of it out loud to her.
Profile Image for Natalie  all_books_great_and_small .
2,038 reviews68 followers
December 7, 2021
I received an advance reader copy of this book to read in exchange for an honest review via netgalley and the publishers.

My Father's Dragon is a book from the 1940s that has been reprinted and still as loved today by all accounts as it was years ago. This is the first time I've ever come across it and read it and it was really enjoyable!
The main character us Elmer. Elmer rescues an alley cat and nurses her for weeks. After hearing Elmers wish to be able to fly, the cat informs Elmer about a baby dragon that has been captured on an island and being held against its will. Elmer sneaks out of the house one night on a mission to rescue the baby dragon. Elmer comes across many different types of animals throughout this book who want to hurt or eat him.
This book was a fun and gripping read that will fascinate and thrill children reading or listening to it. The language in places is a little dated which is to be expected with its age but this can be changed by the adult if reading it outloud to the child and can expand children's knowledge and understanding too.
Profile Image for ✨faith✨trust✨pixiedust✨.
386 reviews334 followers
July 8, 2019
This was truly delightful! I'm a big fan of children's fantasy, as it turns out, because I loved every minute of this! It's whimsical and magical and really just great. It has the same vibe as The Little Prince, Peter Pan, and Alice in Wonderland, but a bit lighter on the dark themes. It's definitely something I'm going to be reading to my future children.
Profile Image for Robin Gaphni.
21 reviews3 followers
May 23, 2009
My Father's Dragon is a perfect first chapter book to read to your four or five year old because there are pictures on almost every page. The chapters are short and simple, and it moves along at a nice pace. It’s action based, which is what makes it so attractive to younger readers. I think it has special appeal to kids who don’t like to sit still for a book. Both of my sons and my daughter count it as one of their favorite books from childhood.

Briefly, it’s the story of Elmer Elevator, a nine-year-old boy that sets out to rescue a captured baby dragon. Armed with chewing gum, lollipops, magnifying glasses and other unlikely rescue devices, Elmer encounters lots of obstacles along the way. He’s an independent, resourceful boy who manages to come up with clever solutions to the many problems that arise on his journey. It's the perfect mix of adventure and intrigue, without being too scary.

A heads-up: Keeping in mind that the book was written 60 years ago, there is a sentence in the first chapter that says his mom whipped Elmer. Nowadays, of course, whipping doesn't usually crop up in children's books. Just wanted to give you advance notice.

Profile Image for Megan Olsen.
224 reviews6 followers
February 6, 2017
After a hard morning of sickness, I put my cranky 7-year-old son in his bed to rest, and began playing this audiobook from my phone to catch a few minutes of child-free peace. (Not our usual, snuggle-and-read-together, cover-of-parenting-magazine approach to books, but it was one of those "Jesus-take-the-wheel" kind of days.)

When I left, he was whining that he didn't want to be in bed and definitely didn't want to listen to a book, so I promised him he'd only have to listen for fifteen minutes or so.

Well, when I returned to turn it off, he seriously jumped from bed to stop my hand from pushing the pause button. Not only did he listen to the whole book (it takes a little more than an hour), but he then listened to the two sequels, AND asked to listen to the first book again.

I was so pleasantly surprised, I decided to listen to it that night after the kids were in bed. The storyline is simple: a boy goes to a mysterious island to rescue a baby dragon, and along the way, has to get himself out of close calls with a number of wild animals by using his quick wits and the schoolboy tools in his backpack. It was adventurous, episodic, and fun, (albeit predictable for an adult). I can see why it is a classic. Warning: the book has an abrupt ending for a stand-alone, so have the next two stories ready!
Profile Image for Carmen.
2,050 reviews1,835 followers
April 29, 2015
Elmer saves an alley cat and feeds her for weeks. In return, the cat - upon hearing Elmer's wish to fly - tells him about a baby dragon that is being held captive on the far off Wild Island.

Elmer sneaks out of his house one night with chewing gum, two dozen pink lollipops, a package of rubber bands, black rubber boots, a compass, a toothbrush and a tube of tooth paste, six magnifying glasses, a very sharp jackknife, a comb and a hairbrush, seven hair ribbons of different colors, an empty grain bag with a label saying "Cranberry," some clean clothes, 25 PB&J sandwiches and 6 apples.

Each chapter is about Elmer trying to get past an animal that wants to eat him or hurt him in some way. My favorite animal character is the little mouse that always says things wrong. For instance, he says, "I must smell tumduddy" instead of "I must tell somebody!" And "Queer, queer, what a dear little dock!" instead of "Dear, dear, what a queer little rock."

Let's just say it's lucky that Elmer packed what he did! Each item comes in very handy.

This is an excellent book that children will love, and it's not stupid - the adult reading it to the child will be happy as well. It was a Newbery Honor Book in 1948.
Profile Image for Karissa.
3,886 reviews191 followers
April 2, 2013
I got a copy of this book to read with my five year old son. It is a very fun and clever children’s read with some great lessons and some wonderful illustrations.

When Elmer Elevator hears about the plight of a poor overworked baby dragon from an old neighborhood cat he is determined to save the dragon. He travels to Wild Island and, through a series of crazy events, saves the dragon from the animals keeping it prisoner.

This book was first published in 1948 and I am amazed at how well it has aged. The writing is fairly simple and is definitely at a younger level but it still made for an excellent story. There are a couple spots where the language is a bit archaic but not many.

Elmer Elevator encounters a number of less than friendly animals and for each encounter he finds a clever (and sometimes hilarious) way to distract the animals. For example he gives the rhino a toothbrush and toothpaste for his very dirty horn and he gives the tigers chewing gum. It was great fun to see how Elmer would combat the next group of animals.

Additionally all the lands have wonderfully fun names. Elmer lives in the land of Popsicornia and travels through Tangerina (known for its tangerines) to get to Wild Island.

Elmer uses cleverness instead of violence or force to get through his adventures. He also frees the poor baby dragon from slavery. All while eating tangerines. The only part of the story parents might object to is the fact that Elmer runs away from his parents at the age of nine to do all of this.

My son loved this book and immediately wanted to start on the second book of the trilogy, Elmer and the Dragon. The pictures throughout are fun and wonderfully done. They match the tone of the story excellently.

Overall a wonderful fantasy read for children. This is a chapter book but is written at a lower reading level that is easy for younger children (5+) to understand even if they can’t quite read it yet. Elmer uses cleverness and humor to survive his noble adventure. The wonderful pictures only add to the excellent story. Highly recommended to read with kids, especially those interested in adventure and fantasy.
Profile Image for Jasmine.
668 reviews45 followers
February 13, 2011
okay so recently I haven't read any real books. I apologize but I'm fucking inundated in research on the difference between sex typed traits and sex roles and I"m going crazy enough as it is. I will start actually reading again soon I just needed a moment of calm to get through the storm

recently I've started a habit of rereading. I mean are books as good as I thought? I mean I was historically quite a little idiot (just wait till I reread nothing but the truth). Well this book is. I think a lot of what's great about this book is the illustrations. But it also has that children's quality that you don't get as much anymore where wonder is more important than logic. I mean now I feel like it would be hard to solve problems the way they were solved in this book, give a tiger chewing gum. But there is something about it that really points to a simpler time than I remember and enjoyed. The writing isn't as polished as milne, but it's much better than the dahl I've reread.
Profile Image for Dianna.
1,858 reviews32 followers
March 4, 2020
This is a lovely book, and I liked this audio version even more. It is freely available at Librivox.org, and it is read by the most adorable little boy who does a simply excellent job. Highly recommended for children age 4–8. My five-year-old son enjoyed it very much.
Profile Image for Beth Anne.
1,180 reviews93 followers
September 28, 2022
9/22: read aloud to my youngest! He insisted that we keep going and we read chapters 3-10 in one sitting. It’s a silly story, but still I find it so clever and fun. A great early chapter book especially to encourage fantasy lovers

5/18: read aloud to Gwen! She was skeptical (that’s too big of a book!) but she kept wanting one more chapter. This is probably my favorite first chapter book! It’s so clever and fun, and the illustrations are perfectly spaced to keep the littlest listeners engaged.

Read aloud to Will (and Emma) 12/13. This is such a fantastic early chapter book (better than magic tree house by far) with lots of wonderful illustrations, fun characters, plus a fast-moving and clever plot. The maps are especially great and Will loved following with Elmer's travels. Will's first "real" chapter book experience. And Emma enjoyed even though we read it about a year and a half ago.

This is a clever, whimsical, early chapter book. Emma loved it, and I really enjoyed it too. The descriptions of the characters (mostly animals) were vivid and gave each a great personality. I am sure we'll be reading the 2 sequels before long!
Profile Image for Rachel Hyland.
Author 15 books19 followers
October 16, 2019
I feel like the most important detail to know about this book is that there really isn't much dragon in it. It's more about the journey to the dragon, to rescue the dragon, who is at the mercy of a lion, for no very understandable reason. The story is told by the son of the hero, Elmer Elevator, and he does not for a moment doubt the veracity of this childhood tale, and so we don't either. We believe the talkative and sage alley cat who tells Elmer about the captive dragon, Elmer's solo childhood rescue mission to Wild Island and the chatty lion who is fooled by Aesop's Fable-style tricks.   

It's all very cute and, unlike with many other American childhood classics -- Love You Forever, The Giving Tree... ugh. Terrible. -- I very much wish I had encountered this one when I was of an age to be utterly enchanted, rather than just... find it cute.
Profile Image for Lisa.
750 reviews133 followers
June 9, 2013
This book was recommended to me by my dear friend (and kindergarten teacher) Megan. We read this over the course of two nights. The kids really loved it, especially Mimi. I had to do a little quick editing in some spots, but I've gotten pretty good at that over the years. It was written in the 1940's, so there were sentences like: 'She whipped my father and threw the cat out the door", which became, 'She punished my father...' when I read it to the kids. Things like that. But the kids really loved it and were hanging on at the end of each chapter. Maxwell seemed to especially like this one. Some of the wording is a bit awkward and old fashioned, but it was a really big hit and a great recommendation. Thanks Megan! We'll be picking up the next in the series for sure!
Profile Image for Caroline.
765 reviews218 followers
June 26, 2021
Somehow I’d never read this before, so discovering it with my granddaughter was doubly fun. She’s six, and I read it through for her in one sitting. Same for the sequel. She enjoyed matching the episodes to the map.
Profile Image for Abbie Lewis.
81 reviews5 followers
February 1, 2023
I can’t believe I’ve missed this one until now! I look forward to reading it to my children.
Profile Image for Lindsey Van.
12 reviews
October 8, 2022
A clever tale of a boy rescuing a dragon! This would be greatly enjoyable as a read aloud for younger kids.
Profile Image for RB Love.
91 reviews32 followers
February 6, 2009
Finally got through My Father's Dragon with the restless Meteor. He's more of an action kind of guy as opposed to a boy who can be read to. He'd rather wrestle.
Good first chapter book all around, I suppose. A little boring really. The most interesting thing about it, I thought, was that it's had such a long shelf life, (1948), without my ever having heard of it, (my older boys said that they thought they remembered their 3rd grade teacher reading it to them in class) and that it was written by Ruth Stiles Gannett, (maybe of the Gannett Media Group family), and illustrated by Ruth Chrisman Gannett, who is said in the bios to be Ruth Stiles Gannett's stepmother. This would mean that ole Lewis Gannett, a daily book critic for the New York Herald Tribune, had a daughter, presumably by another marriage or that he was a widower, named Ruth and then he went out and married another woman, named Ruth, right?
Anyways, there are two sequels neither the Meteor nor I are interested in reading, Elmer and the Dragon and The Dragons of Blueland. All three of these books have stayed in print for over 60 years now. Go figure.
Profile Image for Friend of Pixie.
611 reviews26 followers
June 1, 2009
The first book really worried 4-year-old Logan. He didn't understand why the animals were being so mean to the baby dragon and each chapter brought new worries about what the animals would do to the boy. But we'd talk at the beginning of each chapter about how the boy had everything he needed in his bag to deal with situations that came up and then we'd try to guess which of his random collection of stuff he'd need. He liked the second book better. The third book was brought more worries about what would happen to baby dragon's family. After we'd read them all, Logan wanted to re-read the second book several times and then we read the family reunion chapters of the third book several times. Overall, he said he liked the stories and I think they evoked a lot of discussion about the nature of cruelty and the benefits of being prepared for any emergency!
Profile Image for J. Boo.
702 reviews20 followers
July 3, 2019
Pleasant little illustrated chapter book. "My Father" sneaks to an animal-ruled island in order to rescue a baby dragon. Will add to review after testing it on the kids....
DS1 (5) & DD1 (3) thought it was great, and liked the way Elmer used his inventory of random objects to triumph over the dangers of the island. Grew on me with re-reading, too. Raising my rating from 3 -> 4.

Available on Gutenberg, despite its relative recency.

The following site has an excellent overview of the book, its publishing history, a biography of the author, etc. https://sites.google.com/site/myfathe...

This is simple enough, and engaging enough that I used it as DS#1's first team chapter-book read (I read a page, then he read a page). This went very well, and I plan to try it out with DD#1 this fall.
Profile Image for Jeanette.
318 reviews71 followers
August 31, 2017
This was a childhood favorite and one of the first books I remember reading. I actually own a very old copy that belonged to my mother and her sisters when they were young girls.
Several years ago I read this aloud to my two oldest kids and recently realized I needed to read it to my middle son. He loved it, thought it was very funny and is eager for me to read him the next book.
Profile Image for Kayla.
152 reviews14 followers
September 4, 2020
A great first novel to read aloud or with your kids. They will love the adventure and the mischief of all the animals. It's a great novel for reading comprehension and learning about foreshadowing. Highly recommend for your little bookworms!
Profile Image for First Second Books.
560 reviews543 followers
March 24, 2014
I'm re-reading MY FATHER'S DRAGON and loving it as much as I did when I was eight, but for different reasons.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,200 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.