My friend Joe Nigg, channeling dragon buyer John Topsell, published a book called How to Raise and Keep a Dragon back in 2006. Joe has written a number of wonderful books about mythological and folkloric creatures, but this one had a particularly interesting story behind it--one that's still unfolding. As Joe explains, "A funny thing happened. The book went from a commissioned adult spoof of animal-raising guides to [being] marketing as an illustrated children's book. The book's surprisingly enthusiastic reception internationally (see matches for John Topsell on Google.com) has shown how fervently many young readers dream of raising their own dragon--and that many adults shared that dream as children, some apparently still believing there are such creatures."
Fueling this impression, Joe says that "Topsell lists fictitious Dragon Suppliers in the back of the book," a resource page that has, in part, led to a lot of correspondence from kids--a veritable outpouring. They run the gamut from literal belief and doubt to imaginary play. Sometimes, Joe says, he responds by writing, "John Topsell's dragons have been in myths and stories worldwide since time immemorial. But there are real animals called 'dragons': the Komodo Dragon of Indonesia (which grows up to 10 scary feet long!), and Chinese Bearded Dragons and Water Dragons, tiny lizards that people raise as pets. What I recommend is that you create your own imaginary Dragon friend. Select its breed, size, and color. Name it, and raise it as you read the book."
Below you'll find some wonderful (uncorrected) excerpts from the many emails and letters received by Joe, which once again show just how imaginative and passionate kids can be about the things they love.
(The cover of How to Raise and Keep a Dragon and another great book by Nigg, The Book of Dragons and other Mythical Beasts)