A Timeless Tale of Friendship and Adventure: A Comprehensive Review of “Elmer and the Dragon” by Ruth Stiles Gannett


Ruth Stiles Gannett’s “Elmer and the Dragon” is a charming and enduring children’s novel that has captivated readers for decades. Originally published in 1950 as a sequel to “My Father’s Dragon,” this whimsical tale continues the adventures of Elmer Elevator and his fantastical journey to the Wild Island. In this extensive review, we embark on a delightful exploration of “Elmer and the Dragon,” delving into its themes, characters, and the magical world crafted by Gannett that has enchanted generations of young readers.

Plot Overview:

“Elmer and the Dragon” picks up where “My Father’s Dragon” left off, with Elmer Elevator having successfully rescued a baby dragon from the clutches of the wild animals on Wild Island. Elmer, the resourceful and imaginative young boy, forms a deep bond with the dragon, whom he names Boris. The narrative unfolds as Elmer and Boris embark on a series of adventures, encountering magical creatures, overcoming challenges, and forging a friendship that transcends the boundaries of the ordinary.

The story takes readers on a journey through a vividly imagined world, filled with whimsy and wonder. Gannett’s narrative invites readers to join Elmer and Boris as they navigate the enchanting landscapes of Wild Island, facing both comical and perilous situations along the way. The novel’s episodic structure and engaging storytelling capture the essence of classic children’s literature, making it a timeless and beloved work.

Themes of Friendship, Imagination, and Resourcefulness:

At the heart of “Elmer and the Dragon” lies a celebration of friendship and the boundless power of imagination. Elmer Elevator’s camaraderie with Boris the dragon becomes a central theme, emphasizing the transformative nature of friendship and the joy that comes from connecting with others, regardless of differences.

Gannett’s narrative also underscores the importance of imagination as a driving force in the face of challenges. Elmer’s resourcefulness and creativity are showcased as he navigates the fantastical landscapes of Wild Island. The novel encourages readers to embrace their own imaginative capacities, fostering a sense of curiosity and wonder that extends beyond the pages of the story.

Resourcefulness is another key theme that permeates the narrative. Elmer’s ability to problem-solve and think on his feet becomes a source of inspiration for young readers, encouraging them to approach challenges with creativity and determination. Gannett’s portrayal of Elmer as a capable and resilient protagonist reinforces positive values while providing an entertaining and educational reading experience.

Character Development and Quirky Creatures:

“Elmer and the Dragon” introduces readers to a delightful array of characters, both familiar and new. Elmer Elevator’s character continues to evolve as he embarks on a new set of adventures, showcasing his courage, kindness, and the enduring spirit of curiosity. The development of Elmer’s character reinforces positive qualities that resonate with young readers, making him an endearing and relatable protagonist.

Boris the dragon, a key character in the narrative, exudes charm and personality. Gannett’s portrayal of Boris as a creature with emotions, quirks, and a genuine fondness for Elmer enhances the emotional resonance of the story. The friendship between Elmer and Boris becomes a touchstone for the novel’s exploration of the bonds that can form between unlikely companions.

The narrative introduces a host of quirky and magical creatures inhabiting Wild Island. From flying turtles to invisible monkeys, Gannett’s imagination knows no bounds as she populates the world with whimsical beings that add a layer of enchantment to the story. Each creature Elmer encounters contributes to the sense of wonder and discovery that permeates the narrative, making the journey through Wild Island a delightful experience for readers of all ages.

The Importance of Adventure and Exploration:

“Elmer and the Dragon” celebrates the spirit of adventure and the joy of exploration. Elmer’s willingness to venture into the unknown, face challenges head-on, and embrace the unexpected becomes a thematic thread woven throughout the narrative. The novel encourages readers to approach life with a sense of curiosity and a willingness to embark on journeys of self-discovery.

The concept of exploration extends beyond the physical landscapes of Wild Island to encompass the exploration of one’s own capabilities and the discovery of the world’s wonders. Gannett’s narrative imparts a sense of awe and excitement, inviting readers to view the world with fresh eyes and appreciate the magic that can be found in everyday experiences.

The episodic nature of Elmer’s adventures contributes to the sense of a continuous and unfolding journey, allowing readers to savor each new discovery along with the protagonist. The novel’s celebration of adventure aligns with the rich tradition of children’s literature that encourages a spirit of curiosity, resilience, and a love for exploration.

Literary Craftsmanship and Humor:

Ruth Stiles Gannett’s literary craftsmanship shines through in “Elmer and the Dragon.” Her prose is infused with a delightful blend of whimsy, humor, and heartfelt moments. Gannett’s ability to create a narrative that resonates with both young and adult readers speaks to her skill in crafting stories that transcend age boundaries.

The novel’s humor, often derived from the interactions between Elmer and the fantastical creatures he encounters, adds a layer of entertainment that keeps readers engaged. Gannett’s use of witty dialogue and situational comedy contributes to the light-hearted atmosphere of the story, creating a narrative that is as enjoyable for adults as it is for children.

Gannett’s prose also incorporates descriptive richness, bringing the landscapes of Wild Island to life with vivid detail. The author’s use of language enhances the sense of immersion, allowing readers to visualize the whimsical settings and characters with clarity. Gannett’s literary craftsmanship is a testament to her ability to create a captivating and enduring work of children’s literature.

Illustrations and Visual Appeal:

“Elmer and the Dragon” benefits from the charming illustrations by Gannett’s stepmother, Ruth Chrisman Gannett. The illustrations, interspersed throughout the book, contribute to the visual appeal of the narrative. The whimsical depictions of Elmer, Boris, and the various creatures of Wild Island enhance the reader’s experience, providing visual cues that complement the imaginative storytelling.

The illustrations also serve to break up the text, making the book accessible to early readers and adding visual interest for those enjoying the story as a read-aloud experience. The collaborative effort between author and illustrator enhances the overall aesthetic quality of “Elmer and the Dragon,” making it a visually engaging and delightful reading experience.

Educational and Moral Themes:

Beyond its entertainment value, “Elmer and the Dragon” contains educational and moral themes that resonate with young readers. The novel explores topics such as friendship, problem-solving, and the importance of kindness. Elmer’s interactions with the creatures of Wild Island offer opportunities for discussions about empathy, understanding differences, and the value of cooperation.

The episodic structure of the narrative, with each adventure presenting a new challenge for Elmer to overcome, provides a framework for teaching problem-solving skills. The novel encourages readers to think critically, consider alternative solutions, and approach challenges with creativity—a valuable lesson for children navigating their own journeys of growth and discovery.

Moral themes, such as the impact of kindness and compassion on friendships, are woven into the fabric of the story. Elmer’s treatment of Boris, the consideration he shows to the creatures of Wild Island, and his overall sense of responsibility contribute to the novel’s positive moral messages. Gannett’s subtle integration of these themes adds depth to the narrative, offering young readers valuable insights into the qualities that contribute to positive relationships and personal growth.

Legacy and Enduring Appeal:

“Elmer and the Dragon,” like its predecessor “My Father’s Dragon,” has stood the test of time, retaining its status as a beloved children’s classic. The novel’s enduring appeal lies in its timeless themes, imaginative storytelling, and the relatable characters that continue to capture the hearts of readers across generations.

The legacy of “Elmer and the Dragon” extends beyond its immediate success to its influence on subsequent generations of children’s literature. The novel’s celebration of friendship, adventure, and imagination has left an indelible mark on the genre, inspiring authors who seek to create works that resonate with the innate wonder and curiosity of young readers.


In conclusion, “Elmer and the Dragon” by Ruth Stiles Gannett stands as a testament to the enduring magic of children’s literature. The novel’s whimsical storytelling, memorable characters, and exploration of themes such as friendship and adventure have secured its place in the pantheon of timeless classics.

As readers embark on the fantastical journey through Wild Island with Elmer and Boris, they are treated to a narrative that transcends age boundaries, captivating the imaginations of young and old alike. “Elmer and the Dragon” remains a delightful and cherished work that continues to spark the joy of reading, fostering a love for adventure, imagination, and the enduring power of friendship in the hearts of those who embark on its pages.

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