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Pickle Me This

June 10, 2016

Eric Carle’s Dragons Dragons

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How did we live this long without knowing such a book existed as Dragons Dragons & Other Creatures That Never Were? It arrived in the mail this week, a gift from our friend Zsuzsi, whose packages usually contain books we all fall in love with. This one no exception. It’s fantastic, though you probably knew that already. It is possible that I’m last to the party in discovering this book, but on the off-chance I’m not, I want to make sure you know it too. And if you do already, let’s talk about it—isn’t it wonderful?

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The anthology pairs poetry from a variety of sources with splendid paintings by Carle of the mythical creatures depicted within the poems. Most interestingly, the creatures come from a variety of sources as well, including from Greek Myth, First Nations stories, Hindu legend, Chinese myth and even the Bible—Levianthan.

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You may recall that I was a bit lost when I read Vikki VanSickle’s picture book, If I Had a Gryphon, earlier this year, because so many of the creatures in the story were ones I’d never heard of before. And so Dragons Dragons proved most illuminating, introducing these to me—krackens and chimeras—as well as many others. And if the poetry weren’t explanation enough, there is indeed a glossary in the back disclosing further details, with the most extraordinary caveat…

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“No glossary can paint a precise picture of the likes of chimeras and dragons and basilisks. These marvellous creations can never be described definitively. Accounts of their appearance vary from source to source and tale to tale. It is appropriate that their images shift slightly in our minds with the storytelling of the moment.”

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There’s also a wonderful note by anthologist Laura Whipple on the importance of mythical beasts and what their stories tell us about ourselves, our societies and our histories. “Let us allow our children to revel in the power and mystery of these magical creatures. Let them dream of things impossible.”

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