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by Graeme Base & illustrated by Graeme Base

Age Range: 10 & up

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-8109-3237-7
Publisher: Abrams

 Embellishing colorplates that appeared in a 1990 calendar, and with his tongue resolutely in cheek, Base (The Sign of the Seahorse, 1992, etc.) narrates a mock-scientific treatise on serpentology in the voice of Victorian scientist Rowland W. Greasebeam, B.Sc., F.R.Aud., who claims to have located original letters (``from a variety of sources that propriety demands must remain confidential'') proving the discovery of dragons by a ninth- century Viking, a thirteenth-century Chinese maiden, and a fellow Victorian naturalist. In an oversize format, the letters appear as facsimiles, accompanied by spectacular full-color paintings of the dragons, with editorial notes, plate captions, maps, and scale drawings that compare the dragon in question to a horse, a mouse, an elephant, or--in one case--a human beating a quick retreat. Greasebeam's stuffy self-importance provides much of the fun; especially hilarious are references to his rival, Professor Marty Fibblewitz, that demonstrate in only slightly exaggerated form the legendary infighting among academics. The letters are full of silly details, such as this line in Viking Bjorn's letterhead: ``General Looting and Pillaging, Gratuitous Violence a Specialty.'' A cartoon sequence at the bottom of the spreads illustrates the ``plot'' of each letter and offers children a chance to read between the lines for funny subplots. Throughout, Base speaks for the scientists, author, editors, and the publisher, with wit that is accessible to children and that cannot be ignored by adults. A humorous, self-referential tour de force with resplendent illustrations. (Author tour) (Picture book. 10+)