Friday, March 9, 2012

Poetry: Dragons Dragons and Other Creatures that Never Were (by Eric Carle)

Yesterday, I saw Dragons Dragons and Other Creatures that Never Were in a classroom library.  I was immediately drawn to it because it is from Eric Carle, one of my favorite children’s book illustrators and writers.  I picked up the book at the public library on my way home.  This selection is an anthology of poems complied by Carle.  Some poets represented are traditionally adult literature writers of the past, such as William Blake and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, while others are modern children’s literature authors, like Gerald McDermott and Paul Fleishman.  Here is one of my favorite poems: 

“Pegasus” (by Eleanor Farjeon)
He could not be captured,
He could not be bought,
His running was rhythm,
His standing was thought;
With one eye on sorrow
And one eye on mirth,
He galloped in heaven
With gamboled on earth

And only the poet
With wings to his brain
Can mount him and ride him
Without any rein,
The stallion of heaven,
The steed of the skies,
The horse of the singer
Who sing as flies.

Fans and children will delight in his recreation of mythical characters using his unique pictorial style.  Myth lovers will enjoy the subjects which are from a wide arrange of ancient cultures, such as Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Indian, Native American, European, and Asian.  Some of the mythical creatures depicted are minotaur, phoenix, Anansi the spider, yeti, Basilisk, hippogriff, griffin, and many more.  A glossary is provided that provides a short paragraph description on each one. The poems are primarily a light-hearted look at these creatures—both the fierce:

“Kracken” (X.J. Kennedy)
Neath icelocked waves the Kracken lies
In wait for passing ships,
To gobble them as you or I
Might munch potato chips.

And the benevolent:

“Mermaid/Undersea” (by Marchette Chute)
Beneath the waters
Green and cool
The mermaids keep
A swimming school.
The oysters trot;
The lobsters prance;
The dolphins come
To join the dance.
But all the jellyfish
Who are rather small,
Can’t seem to learn
The steps at all.

This anthology is a wonderful collection to share with children.  Most of the selections are short and fun, ideal for young readers/listeners.  I recommend Dragons Dragons and Other Creatures that Never Were for ages 5 and up. 

Teaching Opportunities
  • Art:  using the description in the poem, draw or paint what you think the character looks like before viewing the illustrations
  • Point of View:  examine the different uses of point of view in the poems—some are from the perspective of the creature (first person), others are characters interacting with it (third person), while many are from a voice observing/imagining it  (third-person)
  • Sound Devices:  identify rhyme, alliteration, and other sound devices together
  • Figurative Language:  locate and discuss similes, metaphors, and personification
  • Myths:  read myths about the creatures and discuss their significance in ancient cultures
  • History:  connect the  mythical creatures in the poems to the ancient cultures being studied
This posted is connected with the Poetry Friday link up at Gathering Books.


  1. Thanks for sharing this. I will look for it at the library this afternoon.

  2. Oh how cute! I've been hearing a bit more about Eric Carle these days in my children's lit class, but not this one. Fun concept!


  3. I love Eric Carle but I've never heard of this one!

  4. I had never heard of it either--probably because it is not likely be with his other picture books since it is a poetry anthology. I hope you all enjoy it!


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