In between jobs, Ruth Stiles Gannett wrote My Father's Dragon for her own amusement a few years after her graduation from Vassar College in 1944. Not expecting publication, it was a happy surprise when Random House accepted the story. Of course, then came the work of turning the story into a book. Her stepmother, Ruth Chrisman Gannett, was chosen to draw the illustrations and her husband-to-be chose the type. (A happy collaboration!) My Father's Dragon was an immediate success, becoming a Newbery Honor Book in 1948, and was soon followed by two sequels, Elmer and the Dragon and The Dragons of Blueland. All three dragon stories have been continuously in print in the more than 50 years since their publication. She is married to the artist and calligrapher Peter Kahn. They have seven daughters and seven grandchildren.
In My Father's Dragon, Gannett demonstrates her understanding of little boys through the character of Elmer. Elmer and the Dragon continues his adventure with humor and nonsense as elements of a child's world. Gannett's attention to detail is indicative of her understanding of a child's curiosity. She describes food, history, and the contents of a treasure chest in a lively style. In the final installment of the trilogy, The Dragons of Blueland, Elmer and the baby dragon, Boris, set off on their final adventure to rescue Boris's family from a cave. All three blend childlike straightforwardness with a sense of the fantastic.
Gannett will be remembered for her singular approach to creativity. Children, hearing or reading the Elmer Elevator books, can say, "Of course!" The cultivated adult will recognize the touch of the real storyteller who has accomplished what she has set out to do—to tell her tales with grace, childlike humor, and literary style.
From her nephew Michael:
Ruthy or Aunt Ruth (to me) continues to live in May 2017 at her home in Trumansburg NY. A 2016 auto accident and its aftermath have not dimmed one iota her playful sense and displays of wonderment and fun. Ruth's readership is ever-expanding: Elmer "lives" on in many languages. Netflix recently optioned Elmer's enduring adventures, so future readers may also expect to view them on their screens.
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