Yesterday, during the long car ride to university, I was reminiscing about my favorite childhood books. Like other children, I loved Harry Potter, Beezus and Ramona, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. But there were also other books that I loved as a child that are either under-read or out-of-print. My top 4 under-read/out-of-print favorites are listed below:
1) Richard Brown and the Dragon by Robert Bright
I did not know this as a child, but Richard Brown and the Dragon is a retelling of a story by Mark Twain from A Tramp Abroad. Unfortunately, Richard Brown and the Dragon is out-of-print. Both the illustrations and the story are delightful. Richard Brown is a bucket-maker who is making a secret invention to destroy the dragon that killed Princess Rossile’s suitor and continues to terrorize Richard’s village. This clever invention adds a humorous twist to the ol’ dragon adventure. You can purchase a used copy from an Amazon bookseller for 3-5 dollars.
2) Bearskin by Howard Pyle
Like Richard Brown and the Dragon, I did not know that Bearskin belonged to an anthology of Howard Pyle fairy-tales called The Wonder Clock. It is also a more child-appropriate retelling of a Grimms’ tale of the same name. The edition that my mother bought me contains illustrations by the Caldecott Medal winner Trina Schart Hyman (a sample is above). Bearskin is about a miller’s son who is raised by a bear and therefore has the necessary courage to fight a three-headed dragon. But he needs more than just his strength to defeat the monster and win the hand of a princess.
3) The Secret Language by Ursula Nordstrom
The Secret Language got me through many sleepless nights as a child. The story is about a girl named Victoria North who goes to boarding school for the first time and experiences home-sickness. But her miseries come to an end when she meets Martha Sherman. Martha and Victoria soon become friends and invent a secret language to communicate with one another. We all need a good friend to get us through the sad and frightening moments in our lives. Once again, The Secret Language is out-of-print, but used copies are available.
4) My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
Elmer Elevator runs away from home and climbs aboard a ship with the express purpose of saving a baby dragon he heard about in a story. This one also got me through sleepless nights. My Father’s Dragon won the Newbery Honor in 1949, and is available in the public domain. It is also the first book of a trilogy. Book 2 is Elmer and the Dragon and Book 3 is The Dragons of Blueland. I believe I have read all three books. Here is a sample of the illustrations from My Father’s Dragon (the illustrator is Ruth Chrisman Gannett):