Reversing the Numbness

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Peet's Dragon

You might not have kids, but if you regularly go to bed with somebody, you never know, so remember this name: Bill Peet. He died in 2002 at the age of 87, after a celebrated career as one of Walt Disney's top guys and, after an unceremonious departure from that relationship, as a successful author and illustrator of children's books.

But I'd never heard of the guy before finding his book How Droofus the Dragon Lost His Head in a bookstore in Vermont, and it's quickly become my favorite children's book, surpassing Seuss's The Lorax.

Droofus, the youngest in a hell-raising clan of dragons, gets lost one day in a storm and separated from his pack for good. While rummaging around for crickets to eat, he spots one trapped in a spider's web awaiting its doom. So Droofus plucks the insect from the web, but then struggles with the idea of killing something he's just saved. Ultimately, he decides to no longer eat anything that crawls, flies, or is otherwise mobile and begins to develop a taste for grass.

What comes around goes around in Peet's world, and eventually a grown-up Droofus is saved from decapitation by a young boy who chooses friendship over a king's reward. It chokes me up a little every time I read it.

If you're going to read books over and over, you might as well make them good books. I'm looking forward to exploring more of Bill Peet's work. If anyone is familiar with other Peet stories, let me know what you think.

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