Monday, February 11, 2008

Dragons of the Watery Kind

The Boston Globe carried an article in today's Health and Science section (!) about a longtime hunter for the Loch Ness monster who has decided to hang up his sonar.

Well, that got me musing, very happily, on my 1995 honeymoon in the far north of Scotland, which included a stop at the tourist center in Loch Ness. I brought a lot of Loch Ness erasers back as souvenirs for colleagues at the publishing house where I work. And I also got thinking about Loch Ness, and Nessie-ish monsters, in various children's books.

The first one that came to mind was about an American Nessie. The Serpent Came to Gloucester by M. T. Anderson, with wonderful illustrations by Bagram Ibatoulline. Ibatoulline's art is evocative the way Alice and Martin Provensens' illustrations always are. I'd like to stroll this Glocester sea- and dream-scape much as I'd like to stay in the Provensens' lovingly realized William Blake's Inn.

Then there's Susan Cooper's second book in her Boggart series, The Boggart and the Monster. For younger readers than the Dark Is Rising series.

And then Dick King-Smith of Babe fame has written The Water Horse, which is now a major motion picture, as they say, from Walden Media/Beacon Pictures. It's a cousin, I suppose, of my childhood favorite, The Enormous Egg, in which a boy hatches a triceratops with the help of a broody hen. In The Water-Horse,young Kirstie and her brother Angus find a mysterious egg capsule among the storm wrack on a Scottish beach, and before you know it they have a young water-horse in their bathtub.

You might try to find Ruth Chew's The Trouble with Magic, which I found in a trove of many other of her books in a used bookshop in Damariscotta, Maine. It has this wonderful cover. It's nearly impossible to find anything out about Chew, but I think--not sure why--she did her own jacket designs.

Meet Harrison Peabody -- a most unusual wizard.

He's short and tubby. He wears a funny hat and carries a magic umbrella. He pals around with a sea serpent named George. He can make the most wonderful magic -- sometimes.

When the wizard sets up housekeeping in her attic, Barbara and her brother rick discover that magic can also be a very tricky thing.

On the nonfiction side, there's Frederick Stonehouse's Haunted Lakes: Great Lakes Ghost Stories, Superstitions and Sea Serpents. Sounds like a perfect candidate for a summer lake house rental to me.

You can read more about the Gloucester Serpent's appearance off the Massachusetts coast in August 1817 in this archived article, "Marblehead Monsters!" from Marblehead Magazine. The wonderful serpent I've reproduced here is by Stephanie Hart McGrail.

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