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The Reluctant Dragon


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About the Author

Kenneth Grahame was born in 1859. He grew up in Cookham Dene, Berkshire, in an idealised country cottage. Water meadows ran down to the River Thames; his passion for rivers can be seen in The Wind in the Willows. Kenneth went to school at St Edward's, Oxford. Prevented for family reasons from continuing on to university, he became a clerk at the Bank of England. By 1879 he belonged to several literary societies, and was writing pieces for papers, including the National Observer. A collection of his magazine articles were published in 1893: Pagan Papers. In 1898 he became Secretary to the Bank of England. Soon after, in 1899, he married Elspeth Thomson. Their son Alastair was born in 1900. It was on the evening of his fourth birthday that Kenneth Grahame first told his son a story about moles and water rats. This story was continued over the next three years, but it was only when Constance Smedley suggested that he make a book out of it that it took shape as The Wind in the Willows, and published by Methuen. The book was published on 8 October 1908. In 1931 Ernest H Shephard was asked to illustrate it, following his success with the illustrations in Winnie-the-Pooh. In 1908 Kenneth Grahame retired before moving to Pangbourne in 1924 where he lived until his death in 1932.


Gr 1-5-Grahame's classic tale of loyalty and compassion, which first appeared in Dream Days in 1898, tells of a shepherd who discovers a sleeping dragon in a cave on the Downs. His son knows from his reading of fairy tales and natural history that some dragons are reasonable and nonthreatening. The child approaches the creature and finds it to be gentle. The villagers, believing it to be a menace, send for St. George, but after the boy persuades the knight to meet his new friend, the three are able to devise a plan that gives everyone a fine show and allows the dragon to stay, writing poetry and singing. In Robert San Souci's version of the tale (Orchard, 2004), the text was pared down to a virtual outline of the action, sacrificing Grahame's clever dialogue and unique style. Moore has made so few alterations that the term abridgement scarcely applies. The colored-pencil and ink illustrations demonstrate her gift for capturing the atmosphere of a story, as the large and lovable dragon romps across the green and rolling hills. Libraries looking for a picture-book rendering of this story will want to add this lovely new version.-Grace Oliff, Ann Blanche Smith School, Hillsdale, NJ Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Shepard's pristine ink illustrations adorn this 1938 edition of Grahame's story. Ages 8-11. (Mar.)

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