Paying Respect to Children’s Author Ruth Stiles Gannett

We commemorate author Ruth Gannett’s life and legacy. The mother of our favorite dragon children’s stories.

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Ruth Stiles Gannett dragon childrens books

Unfortunately, on June 11, 2024, American author Ruth Gannett died at the age of 100. As a children’s author, her books were written by the child within her. Despite her accomplishments, her works continue to be a classic to many children adoring her work even after 75 years! Let’s take a moment to recognize her work. 

The Life of Ruth Gannett

Ruth was born on August 12, 1923, in New York City, New York.  She was born to journalist Ross Gannet and Lewis Gannit, where she walked the distance of the elementary school called City and Country. There, for the next 10 years, she credits much of her creative success to the school’s philosophy of respecting children’s capacities and encouraging them to learn through doing. 

At the beginning of World War II, she entered Vassar College in 1940 and graduated with a degree in chemistry in 1944. It was when her degree was in practice she wrote a story about a baby dragon. Ruth read her story to her parents, who encouraged her to send it to Random House, a children’s book publisher.

A picture of Ruth Garnett.
IMAGE VIA MY FATHER’S DRAGON

Ruth continued to write classics. She married her husband on March 21, 1947, the year My Father’s Dragon was published. It won the Newbery Honor Award the following year. She continued to write children’s books that led to a series titled Three Tales of My Father’s Dragon.

Later on in life, she moved in 1957 to an old rural township not far from Cornell. Gannett would tend to her farm and her 7 daughters. Inspired by her elementary school years, Ruth read books to her daughters every night. After a year, the family moved to Ithaca, NY, where Ruth worked with other parents and educators to create an elementary school called East Hill School. She became the school clerk, supporting the principal, teachers, students, and their families to fulfill the school’s mission. 

A picture of Ruth Garnett in her 90s.
IMAGE VIA PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE

In her nineties, Ruth lived in the Trumansburg farmhouse with one daughter, where she continued to bake her own bread, tried to finish the crossword every morning, collected berries to make jam, fed the birds, and kept in touch with family and friends. Even then, a time of peace for Gennett, she received many letters and comments to let her know how important My Father’s Dragon has been–and still is–to readers of all ages around the world. 

Ruth Gannett’s Classic Trilogy

My Father’s Dragon (1948): A children’s novel about a young boy named Elmer Elevator who runs away to While Island to rescue a baby dragon. The book is narrated by a child recounting the story of his father, Elmer, when he was nine years old. 

Elmer and the Dragon (1950): Elmer Elevator and his dragon friend do their best to travel home after rescuing the dragon from Wild Island. However, they both find themselves stranded on another island that’s inhabited by talkative animals. 

The cover of The Dragons of Blueland.
IMAGE VIA INTERNET ARCHIVE

The Dragons of Blueland (1951): The dragon, after leaving Elmer at home, ruined his family on Blueland. Soon, the dragon realizes that humans have trapped his family in a cave in the Spiky Mountains. The dragon, Boris, contacts Elmer for help, who devises a plan to scare off the men who are trying to bring the dragons to zoos and circuses.


If you want to learn more about some children’s stories, click here.

To start your story today, check out Writer Inspiration – Tips, Tricks, and Book Recs on Becoming a Better Writer on Bookshop.

FEATURED IMAGE VIA BOOKSTR / ALYSEA O’BRIEN