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the dragons of blueland

23 february 2023

In the third installment of Ruth Gannett's Elmer Elevator trilogy, Elmer and his dragon have gotten safely to the coast of Popsicornia; but the dragon (whose name, we learn, is Boris) has another leg of his own journey remaining: he must cross the Awful Desert to rejoin his family in Blueland.

Here for once Elmer and Boris must confront human evil; till now they've contended with animals (cruel but easily pacified) and the elements (implacable but impersonal). But in the Awful Desert, conditions have let up to allow researchers to approach the dragons' nest in search of zoo specimens. Boris and Elmer must reach the trapped family of dragons and arrange their escape, which they do in typical resourceful fashion, aided by what at first look likes an inscrutable toolkit of whistles and horns.

And that's all the Elmer books there were. Gannett's career never gained traction after the success of the dragon trilogy, but the three titles remain beloved, and I am busy introducing them to a new generation. They are the rare children's books that have barely dated, avoiding topicality and local color, remaining mild and whimsical, but with just enough of an edge of danger and suspense to keep readers interested.

Gannett, Ruth Stiles. The Dragons of Blueland. Illustrated by Ruth Chrisman Gannett. 1951. New York: Yearling [Random House], 2007.