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Last of the Dragons and Some Others by E.…

Last of the Dragons and Some Others (1972)

by E. Nesbit

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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I'm going a little retro today. I'm in the process of re-cataloging and arranging my entire library and am currently going through paperbacks. I have a lot of middle grade books I'm in the middle of, but nothing at review point yet, so...have something old!

Edith Nesbit's collection, A Book of Dragons, has been republished several times in different forms. This particular edition includes an extra dragon story - "The Last of the Dragons" and has an admittedly awful cover. These stories typify what I think of as "common magic" every day, ordinary children who suddenly encounter magic, usually with complete equanimity. I always think of E. Nesbit as the creator of this genre.

"The Last of the Dragons" is the story of....the last dragon. Of course, the princess must face him and be rescued by the prince. But the princess thinks this is a great shame and wouldn't it be better to give the dragon some kind words and maybe a few biscuits? The dragon has never faced such treatment before and it changes his whole attitude.

"The Book of Beasts" in which a little boy is made king and learns he oughtn't to open books that his nurse says should stay shut...in case horrid beasts come out! Fortunately, the little king remembers his duty, wipes away his tears, and finds the right creature to put right the wrongs he's done.

"Uncle James, or, The Purple Stranger" is a truly adorable story. A princess and a garden boy live on an island where everything is backwards - there's a chihuahua as big as an elephant and the elephant can fit in your pocket, for example. The princess has a horrid uncle who tries to take over the kingdom, but the clever gardener's boy saves her. I love that the princess tries her best to do her lessons, although she is not very good at them, and when Uncle James gets shrunk "the dragon took him because he wanted a birthday present."

"The deliverers of their country" is, perhaps my favorite story. There is a sudden plague of dragons on England. At first nobody believes the children who see them, then everyone thinks it's interesting, but as the dragons grow bigger and bigger and keep multiplying it becomes a major infestation and nobody knows how to deal with it. Fortunately for England, a naughty boy and his sister are prepared to be the Deliverers of Their Country, especially when St. George isn't able to help. A little plumbing, and the problem is solved!

"The ice dragon; or, do as you are told" in which two naughty children discover the truly awful things that can happen to children who sneak out of the house at night - like sliding all the way to the north pole and nearly getting eaten!

Hmm, no, I think "The Dragon Tamers" is my favorite. It tells the story of a blacksmith who accidentally discovers a dragon in his cellar. Catastrophe is averted by his clever children and there is bread and milk for everyone!

"The Fiery Dragon; or the Heart of Stone and the Heart of Gold" is the closest to a traditional fairy tale, complete with a captured princess and a rescuing prince. Except the prince turns out to be a really nasty piece of work an an usurper to boot and the real heroes are the princess herself and the brave pig-boy. He becomes a prince and marries the princess and "keeps no hippopotamuses and is consequently very popular."

"Kind little Edmund; or, the Caves and the Cockatrice" is probably the most outdated of these stories as it's a rather moralistic tale about not asking questions, respecting your betters, and the frontispiece for the story shows a boy being whipped by his schoolmaster.

Finally, we have another fairy tale, "The Island of the Nine Whirlpools". It takes a mathematically-inclined sailor boy and some help from the princess herself to get her rescued from all the fearsome guardians her nasty father has set about her.

Verdict: If I was replacing and adding classics, which I hope to do in a year or two, I'd definitely add this one to the list. The stories are fresh, funny, and clever. Although some of the language is outdated, the characters and plots are lively enough to overcome this. There's a nice, very affordable edition from the Looking Glass Library series by Random House that I have on a list to get sometime soon!

ISBN: 0140350691; Published 1972 by Puffin (this edition is out of print); From my personal library
  JeanLittleLibrary | Apr 20, 2014 |
This was another book I read aloud with my kids. They love dragons for some reason, and they really enjoyed these stories. They have a fairy tale feel to them, with moral lessons, (somewhat) gruesome endings, and all. My children especially liked the baby that would cry and cry and cry whenever its mother was asleep. (No real surprise that my daughter felt a kinship with that particular character.) I especially liked that the princesses weren't all just waiting to be rescued and that so many of the dragons' scales clattered like metal. I like the idea that perhaps a dragon sounds a bit like a very large wind chime.

Maybe these stories will act as a gateway to other Edith Nesbit books that my children might finally allow me to read to them. Sure, I could read children's literature to myself, but it just feels more efficient to read it aloud to my kids since I read to them constantly anyway. It could also be a good introduction to The Hobbit. ( )
  ImperfectCJ | May 4, 2013 |
I think this was a really good book! I had to read it for on of my classes! I loved it! Great story! The book also has a really good moral (lesson)! Check it out!!
  Blonde.Kimmie | Apr 8, 2010 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
E. Nesbitprimary authorall editionscalculated
Blegvad, ErikIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"The Complete Book of Dragons" (1972) contains nine dragon tales, eight of which had appeared in "The Book of Dragons" (1900). It was re-issued as "The Last of the Dragons and some others" (1975).
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The book of beasts.--Uncle James.--The deliverers of their country.--The ice dragon.--The dragon tamers.--The fiery dragon.--Kind little Edmund.--The Isle of the Nine Whirlpools.--The last of the dragons. - This is the same collection as "The Book of Dragons, with the addition of the story "The Last of the Dragons."
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Relates what happens to the very last dragon in Cornwall when the local princess and her prince decide, in a departure from tradition, to tame the dragon rather than fight him.

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