My Father’s Dragon series (set of three books), in which a 9-year-old boy named Elmer sets out on a journey to save a baby dragon, was published in the U.S. from 1948 to 1951 and is still a bestseller loved all over the world. The author is Ruth Stiles Gannett (1923-), born in New York, U.S. She loved to think up stories since she was a child, and this story, written in her twenties, still vividly conveys the fun and importance of adventure. The illustrations were created by Ruth Chrisman Gannett, an illustrator, who is the mother-in-law of the author. The Japanese edition was translated by Shigeo Watanabe and published by Fukuinkan Shoten from 1963 to 1965.
Whenever Elmer escapes from his home and goes on an adventure by himself, he encounters difficulties such as frightening animals, mysterious diseases, and adults, but he accepts them without confrontation and overcomes the dangers with the tools and wisdom at hand. The acceptance of others who are different from oneself and the tactful solution of problems without conflict are Gannett’s daily way of life and philosophy.
This is the first exhibition of My Father’s Dragon in Japan. About 130 original illustrations are borrowed from the Kerlan Collection of Children’s Literature, University of Minnesota Library, and dummy books, and other materials for the book production are lend by the artist. The exhibition follows the three stories in sequence through colorful illustrations and pencil illustrations with a soft touch. Along the way, visitors can feel as if they were Elmer himself, as they hear animal noises, jump over the back of crocodiles, and find the baby dragon and his family trapped in a cave. Step into a nostalgic and new adventure.
In the last room, the Adventure Library is now open. Please come and discover diverse adventure stories with the books recommended by people in various professions.
Chapter 1: My Father’s Dragon
When Elmer hears from an old cat about a baby dragon trapped on Animal Island, he sets off on an adventurous journey to save the baby dragon. On Animal Island, frightening animals awaits him. Elmer uses the tools he packed in his backpack before setting out to deal with the animals one after another. Finally, he encounters the baby dragon.
Chapter 2: Elmer and the Dragon
On the way back to Elmer’s home, Elmer and the baby dragon were caught in a storm and ended up on a small island. The island was of canaries, and the king was suffering from a disease called “wanting to know”. Elmer successfully cures the king’s illness and obtains many treasures.
Chapter 3: Dragons of Blueland
After parting with Elmer, the baby dragon goes back home to Blueland, which is surrounded by high mountains. There, a family of 15 dragons are trapped in a cave by humans. The baby dragon goes to Elmer for help. Elmer rescued the family with a brilliant plan.
Elmer sneaks out of his house with the guidance of an old cat, hides himself in a burlap sack, boards a boat, crosses the sea to an island, and after many difficulties, saves a baby dragon and takes off into the sky on its back. Adventure is an encounter with the unknown. The trick is to overcome it with courage, wisdom, and only what is given to you. The trick is to accept the situation, be flexible, and make it work. At the end of the adventure, sparkling discoveries and a slightly grown-up version of yourself will be waiting for you, waving your hands. This Adventure Library is a collection of adventure-related books, including 100 books recommended by the people active in various professions. Great adventures on the prairie, in the air, under the sea, in caves, on uninhabited islands and unexplored regions, and in the big city. Fantastic adventures in space, in the body, in the future, and intellectual adventures in physics, science, and mathematics. The fields of adventure are not only in the fields and mountains, but also in your mind’s eye. Let’s ignite the spirit of challenge and adventure in adults and children alike, and let’s go out like Elmer.
Ruth Stiles Gannett
The author of My Father’s Dragon
Gannett was born in August 1923 in Brooklyn, New York. Both of her parents were reporters for magazines that dealt with political and social issues. Gannett enrolled at the age of three in an innovative school where she learned to play and work. Teachers did not teach lessons, and learning centered on storytelling and playing with building blocks. Gannett, who did not yet know how to read, grew up in this special environment where she told stories and her teachers and family members took down the stories. When Gannett eventually learned to read and write, she began to spend time writing stories in her notebook.
My Father’s Dragon is a story that Gannett, a 22-year-old college graduate, began writing out of boredom while working part-time at a ski resort. Ruth Chrisman, an illustrator, who was married with Gannett’s father, was assigned to illustrate the story, and Gannett drew images of Elmer and the dragon and a map, made a stuffed dragon to depict the movements, and told her, “Not a brave and strong-looking dragon, but a cute dragon that children would want to help”. Her father, an expert in children’s literature, and her boyfriend Peter, who later became her husband, joined her in discussing the the pictures and the words, and the book was completed as a family affair.
Here, for the first time in Japan, Gannett’s childhood stories and writings, a dummy book showing the process of My Father’s Dragon, a stuffed dragon, and photographs and other materials that convey Gannett’s personality will be exhibited.