My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett is a great starter chapter book and even better read-aloud. This classic Newbery Honor book tells the tale of a resourceful young boy named Elmer who stows away on a ship headed to the fictional island of Tangerina. Armed with a knapsack filled with an interesting mixture of supplies (including lollipops and hair ribbons), Elmer’s goal is to make his way to Wild Island (joined to Tangerina by a long string of rocks) to save an imprisoned baby dragon.
If you don’t have access to the book, it is widely available on the internet for free!
The Story Behind the Story
According to the official My Father’s Dragon web site:
“Ruth began to write a story about a baby dragon, which she put aside when she found work at a Vermont ski lodge. Spring came early, and the job ended. She returned to her parent’s home while seeking work. During two particularly rainy weeks, she decided to take up the dragon story again. She read the story to her parents, who encouraged her to send it to Random House, a children’s book publisher. The editor sent the manuscript to a Boston school to have children read it to see whether it should be published. The editor accepted the book for publication despite the comment of one teacher from the school that ‘it is the work of a maddened mind, but the children liked it’!”
The book was illustrated by Ruth’s stepmother, Ruth Chrisman Gannett (illustrator of the classic book, Miss Hickory). To help make the book easy to read, Ruth’s friend and eventual husband, Hans Peter Kahn, chose the typeface and the space between the lines.
Activities and Literature Units
There are so many fun activities that can bring this book to life! Try some of these ideas to get started:
Frugal Fun for Boys and Girls has an easy-to-use literature unit featuring a variety of activities. This is one of my favorite resources for this book. Her ideas are fun, yet simple and inexpensive.
Get more fun activities chapter-by-chapter from A Good Tired. This is also one of my favorite resources for this book.
Theater at Monmouth offers a My Father’s Dragon Teacher’s Guide filled with interesting information about habitats, dragon use in literature, and classroom activities that can be modified for homeschooling.
Turn a paper grocery bag into a backpack.
Create a fire-breathing dragon.
Make Tangerine Sorbet!
Make a map of Wild Island.
Make a paper boat and investigate water currents.
Learn more about the history of dragons and their use in literature.
Listen to the read-aloud version of My Father’s Dragon.
Worksheets, Games, and Printables
First Grade Schoolhouse offers free worksheets.
Print a dragon mask.
Homeschool Share has a great lapbook to use with the book!
Complete an online word search.
Library Book Suggestions/Further Reading
If you enjoyed reading My Father’s Dragon, be sure to check out the two other books in the series:
Or, check out another classic story about a dragon, Saint George and the Dragon.