THE DRAGON IN THE GARDEN by Reginald Maddock


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Stiffly, stuffily, rebellion is contained and a bad 'un is redeemed in a story that has no story values. Take the title: the dragon in the garden intermittently symbolizes freedom; actually it's a fossil dinosaur found in a quarry by Jimmy Stewart during his first outing in the Middlesex town of Farley. A tangle with local bully Fagso Brown and one of his minions convinces Jimmy's potter father and artist mother that it's time Jimmy stop being tutored at home and go to school. After a day, he's had it: Fagso's tyranny over the boys is matched by the dour repression of the teachers. Fortunately for Jimmy, his father is enlightened, hulking and a Black Belt in judo. Rather than re-roach Jimmy for cutting school, he teaches him judo (""the weapon of the weak against the strong"") and encourages him to voice his protest -- which is mouthed in adult terms (""You'd expect a school to be a happy place, wouldn't you? It's full of kids and if kids aren't happy, who is?"") and presented as formulations rather than immediate reactions (""I hadn't been... drilled to fit into their pattern of behavior""). With the waning of Fagso's power (Mr. Stewart belts him and faces down his father, Jimmy eventually throws him) comes the surfacing of good qualities in the teachers; even Jimmy's home room spoilsport turns out to be human. So is Fagso: Mr. Stewart discerns an artistic bent in that ""lump of clay"" and sets out to mold him into ""something useful."" There's a rather smug, manipulative undertone to this throughout.

Pub Date: Aug. 21st, 1969
Publisher: Little, Brown