Book: The Book of Dragons


It’s always nostalgic coming back to childhood loves. Edith Nesbit is one of my favourite authors that has remained ingrained in my memory since my younger days. Her books are delightful to read and her characters are always so familiar. In the afterword of this particular collection Peter Glassman writes,

The stories in this collection reflect Nesbit’s boundless imagination. Certainly she wrote of the classic fire-breathing dragon. But that alone would hardly do; she also found ice dragons and dragons trapped between the pages of books. It is indeed quite impressive that one person could create eight such different tales of dragons in less than a year.

Coming back to read more of work that I happen to miss out on as her child has been an enjoyable experience. I’ve realized that she inserts witty and funny comments into her stories as if she is speaking to the reader directly. Lemony Snicket does the same in his series of unfortunate events and I enjoy the banter that this creates between author and reader.

So Jane went on pretending to howl, and the real crying stopped: It always does when you begin to pretend. You try it.

At the same time it feels like she’s giving you a sly wink or a knowing nod of the head. It’s as if she understand what the young child must be thinking as they read the story. It’s a wonderful secret that she’s sharing with you. This adds to the fun of reading, it really engages the readers in the story. It’s not passive anymore, instead a connection between herself and the reader is being forged.

I have no doubt that you will wish to know what the princess lived on during the long years when the dragon did the cooking. My dear, she lived on her income – and that is a thing that a great many people would like to be able to do.

The stories she writes are always from a child’s perspective, yet I am of the belief, that I would not have understood some of the humour that peppers her stories in my childhood.

…and they half-turned off the one labeled “Sunshine” – it was broke, so that they could not turn it off altogether – and they turned on “Fair to moderate” and “showery” and both taps stuck, so that they could not be turned off, which accounts for our climate.

It’s just a riot and really reminds me that the best children’s stories aren’t just meant for children. They appeal to readers of every age and are able to withstand the passing of time. If you have never read a book by her, I would highly suggest doing so. And if her books have passed through your hands before, let me know which is your favourite!

The Book of Dragons

 

Nesbit believed passionately in the influential force of literature and the imagination, but she also saw them as potentially dangerous.

Clearly Nesbit saw books as significant tools that could be used for good or for ill and as a well-spring of both imagination and magic. Nesbit too this power seriously, as she did her responsibility as an author. Though her books are filled with humour and lighthearted banter, her characters inevitably find themselves required to dig deep within themselves to find strengths they hardly knew they had.

This view of Nesbit seems slightly exaggerated, but I do believe in the power of literature and the imagination. And I can only wish that more authors could see how influential they are and how exactly they shape young minds. Stories may come in many varied forms, yet they should teach the reader something. Be it about a different culture or time period, be it working through difficult situations or reaching success. They need to impart good moral values and this is especially true for books targeted at children and teenagers.  Books can help mould their thinking and character and it’s up to authors to do so responsibly.

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