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by E. Nesbit

Pub Date: March 5th, 1973
Publisher: Macmillan

The author's fans will welcome this edition of nine dragon stories, all but one of them written for The Strand Magazine in 1899 and published together a year later, though as they've generally aged less gracefully than her full-length novels we wouldn't choose this as any child's introduction to Nesbit. Her mock morals now seem less amusing than they must have in 1900, her arch asides to readers verge on the precious, and that whimsical geography and natural history (as in the Kingdom of Rotundia, where the elephant, "dear little pet," is the size of a silly muff dog and the dormouse is "the biggest creature of all") can be carried to tiresome lengths. Yet her masterful, matter-of-fact juxtaposition of the ordinary, the fabulous and the wildly ridiculous is in disarming evidence throughout — whether in details such as the "universal tap room" wherein two children, the "Deliverers of Their Country," turn on the rain taps and wash a horde of invading dragons off to sea; or throughout the adroitly tongue-in-cheek fairy tale of an enchanted princess, a sailor boy who overcomes a guardian dragon and nine whirlpools to rescue her from an island tower, and a witch who gives up her magic for the queen's gratitude. And even the whimsy has its redeeming triumphs — at least for those of us who can't resist an opening in which a child is summoned from his nursery blocks by Nurse's announcement: "Master Lionel, dear, they've come to fetch you to go and be King.