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Here There Be Monsters

January 26, 2010

Paul’s post of this Sunday past sent me on a quest…

…and what’s a quest without a beast to tame?

Paul was searching for literary lizards, dragons or reptiles who were portrayed as anything other than evil. For no reason other than when I have an answer in my head that is only half-formed I become obsessed with finding the full answer, I spent the better part of Sunday evening pulling apart the haphazard organization that is my book shelf. You see, I was certain that somewhere in there was a book with a heroic little lizard—a book I read often as a child.

Alas, after hours of searching I was unable to find the book. Either I’m misremembering it, or, more likely, I simply didn’t have the book any longer. However, during my questing I did come across a knot of children’s books from my youth. My mother gave these back to me for Christmas a few years ago, and since then they have sat in a secluded, protected corner of my bookshelf.

The bulk of the collection consists of twenty-two books from a series called Serendipity, written by Stephen Cosgrove and illustrated by Robin James. And low and behold, tucked in the pages of these obsessively well-maintained books, are a few semi-heroic, and very cuddly, lizard-kin.

Serendipity is the eponymous character, from the eponymous book in the Serendipity series. Serendipity is a sea serpent who is born alone, but befriends several aquatic animals, and takes it upon herself (I’m calling her a female for no other reason than her bright pink color) to protect the seas from pollution by cleaning up the messes causes by careless humans.

In Search of the Saveopotomas, is a story about a Hoardasaurus, a nervous little dinosaur who is so concerned about keeping his meager possessions safe from pilfering, that he’s worrying his life away. A friendly bird helps him redistribute the items he doesn’t use to other dinosaurs who can use them, and to deposit his silver in a cave with the legendary Saveopotomas.

My favorite of the lovable lizards is The Muffin Muncher, a dragon who’s used his fierce appearance to demand tax of tasty muffins from a nearby castle teeming with bakers. But he extracts so many muffins that the inhabitants simply stop making them because they can no longer afford to stoke the ovens to bake enough to satisfy the dragon and still turn a profit. So a brave baker goes out to reason with the dragon. They come to an agreement where The Muffin Muncher will stoke the ovens, and the bakers will provide him with the tasty treats he desires.

While I’m not certain, these pudgy pacifists are quite the kinds of characters Paul had in mind—they’re not exactly famous and aren’t particularly heroic—they certainly satisfy the criteria of not being the bad guys.

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I don’t know if these books are still in print, but they’re easy enough to get on Amazon and eBay. If you’re looking for something a little less well known for your kids than the typical Dr. Seuss fare, how could you go wrong with titles like Cap’n Smudge, The Gnome from Nome, Hucklebug and The Wheedle on the Needle?
  1. January 26, 2010 1:42 am

    How old are these books Dale (without having to give away an secrets of your own vintage of course?!) It seems to me authors were concerned about greed, pollution and consumerism far before they became catch cries of marketing agencies and NGOs.

    I’d love to read something like this to Dylan. He’s not big on dinosaurs (like some kids are obsessed, but loves a good tale with an discussion point moral at the end). Onwards to Amazon I guess… or luck it on eBay.

    Thanks for this Dale… I now feel like I needed to pull a reptile out of my hat yesterday. Ahh, if only for creative headspace…

  2. January 26, 2010 6:13 am

    I too set myself on a mission after Pauls post. I half remembered a sci fi series ( or was it just a book) about a lizard race ( some good , some evil) cannot find it my library nor references on the internet and am sure I didn’t make it up – as when I asked hubby – he too recalls it. The cover has a spaceperson – with the helmet off – revealing a lizards head.

    am still trying to remember it… anyone??

  3. January 26, 2010 6:14 am


    I just checked and the first two I pulled off the shelf were copyright 1974. I’ve got what must be the entire initial set. But when looking online last night for the images, I found several I don’t have, so more may have been released after the first year. I found a few of them on eBay for $1 plus shipping.

  4. January 26, 2010 12:06 pm

    Oh, I had Serendipity as a kid!!! As soon as I saw the picture of the book cover, my mind immediately zoomed back to my childhood (which, fortunately, is a good thing). It also makes me happy that I’ve held onto a pile of my son’s favourite picture books, which I will give to him when he’s all grown up and can appreciate the nostalgia.

    Thank you for this post!

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