Tiny Virtual Book Club: My Father’s Dragon

There were a couple of really fun conversations going on over at Facebook today. Erin Dionne shared a question from a class discussion she was having: Whose story is Charlotte’s Web? There were several opinions!

Then Melissa Wyatt (and several other people) posted a link to a Bustle article about people’s first literary crushes, and that got a few of us talking about who was not on the list.

Anyway, I jumped in with my two cents (Wilbur’s! Calvin O’Keefe!) a few times, then got back to work.

But the fun has stuck with me. So tonight, right here, I’m putting up a Tiny Virtual Book Club post. I say “tiny,” because for all I know, it’ll just be me. And maybe you. But probably we won’t break any fire codes with the crowds. And whether I do this again, with another book? Who knows, we’ll see, making no commitments and applying no pressure.

Tonight, we’re going to talk about one of my favorites, a book I consider perfect for what it sets out to do and what it accomplishes. We’re going to talk about Ruth Stiles Gannett’s My Father’s Dragon, illustrated by Ruth Chrisman Gannett.


You haven’t read it yet? Well, that’s okay. Go pick yourself up a copy. We’ll wait…

Now, this is not a book review, and lucky for you, because it would be such a gushy one, you’d need a heap of tissues just to mop up after me. I should mention, also, that I have never succeeded in participating in a non-virtual book club, so this may not become a book discussion either. But you never know, so here we go: Questions for discussion. Place your thoughts in the comments. And if there are more than one of you, take a look at the other comment(s) and drop in a reply.

  • Why do you think Ruth Stiles Gannett used Elmer Elevator’s son as a first-person frame narrator?
  • What story elements does Stiles Gannett use to keep the young reader engaged until we get to the island?
  • Once we get to the island, the chapters become more episodic. Why do you think Stiles Gannett chose that structure? What effect do you think the structure might have had on the young reader?
  • Can you think of any books published in the past 5-10 years that you would liken to My Father’s Dragon? Think about the structure and the length and the balance of language level with story complexity. Or do you think Stiles Gannett’s book is a “genre” of the past only?
  • What happened to the cat? (You may have to use your imagination on this one!

There you go. Don’t be shy–jump on in. Not sure yet if I’ll simply comment with my own take on these questions (yes, obviously I have a take on the questions), or whether I’ll wait and respond as comments (possibly) come along from others. But you’ll hear from me one way or another.



  1. I haven’t read this, but you’re the second person to recommend it. I guess that means I need to read it!


  2. Jenn Hubbard says:

    I read this long ago, when I was little. When my stepson was younger and reading this book, and I commented on my memories of it to my husband, he said, “I thought it was a much more recent book!”
    I don’t remember much, even though I know I read it multiple times way back when. I have a vague memory of a rhino brushing his horn with a toothbrush, and alligators with lollipops serving as a bridge (am I remembering that right?) and the lion with the hair ribbons on the cover. Also–wasn’t there an animal who was kept occupied with chewing gum?
    I do remember wondering, when I read it, why the main character was “my father.” I thought of fathers as adults, so to see someone called “my father” as a boy was strange. And it put the main character at a remove. (Also, I didn’t like not knowing the main character’s name.)
    I find that with illustrated books I read in my childhood, I often remember the illustrations better than the words. This is one of those books.
    Sorry I didn’t get into most of your questions! I don’t remember the details well enough to answer them.


    • beckylevine says:

      You have have a fantastic memory. I agree there was something a little disjointed about the son of Elmer thing when I was young…I wonder if it was an attempt to bring us (the young kids) closer to the adventure without getting us all to runaway with the cat, but that doesn’t seem like the author’s style/approach to me.


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