children's books, courage, dragons, Family, Ogden Nash, poetry


I can’t remember a time when someone didn’t read to me or encourage me to do so on my own. My brother and I spent our early years in the company of Uncle Wiggily, Christopher Robin, Winnie the Pooh & friends, Alice, Dorothy and a host of characters in The Golden Book of Poetry.
The poetry book was filled with colorful illustrations and poems that danced across the pages in a rhythm and rhyme that tickled us. We each had our favorites that we went back to over and over. By the time my children came along, that beloved volume was in tatters, so I invested in a new edition and shared the familiar poems with them. Although it’s now held together by packing tape, I still  occasionally bring out The Golden Book of Poetry to read “The Tale of Custard, the Cowardly Dragon” by Ogden Nash.

The poem tells the story of Custard, a cowardly dragon, who lives in a little white house with Belinda and her little black cat, Ink; a little gray mouse, Blink; and a little yellow dog, Mustard. Belinda and crew fancy themselves as brave as a barrel full of bears, tigers in a rage, and believe they can chase lions down the stairs. Their favorite pastime is to sit in her little red wagon and tease Custard because he cries for a nice safe cage. But when a nasty pirate invades that little white house, guess which characters hide and which one rises to the challenge? It’s a great story about overcoming your fears to save the people you love.

There was a time when I could quote “The Tale of Custard the Cowardly Dragon” by heart, but it’s under copyright, so I won’t do that here. And truth be told, now I could only regale you in part. But if you Google “The Tale of the Cowardly Dragon,” you can read the entire poem on Keith’s Poetry Archive page.

Amazon offers The Tale of Custard the Dragon as a single volume featuring illustrations by Lynn Munsinger. If you have small children or grandchildren, buy it for them. It will make you laugh. It will make them giggle. You’ll find yourselves going to it again and again for the sheer joy of Ogden’s poetry and whimsical tale!

 What was your favorite children’s book or poem?


God is the perfect poet. Robert Browning



  1. My Mom read Peter Rabbit to me often and Little John Little seems like yesterday. At the Riddle house a big favorite was The Little Old Man Who Couldn't Read, I can't wait to read it to my Grands.


  2. Well, you already know I'm addicted to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. But, as a young reader, I read all sorts of animal tales, – Lassie, Black Beauty, and my absolute favorite was one called Beautiful Joe…about an abused dog who found a great home, and his adventures. I still like that book!

    Lovin' your trips down memory lane, Dorothy! There's really no place like home (in our memories).


  3. Thanks, Dorothy, for introducing me to The Tale of Custard and the Cowardly Dragon!

    As a child, my favorite children's book was The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper — in the Little Golden Book hardback edition.

    And, while in college, taking “Kiddie Lit,” I was introduced to another children's book that became my favorite: Drummer Hoff by Barbara Emberley. The rhyming is so catchy, and the illustrations by Ed Emberley won him the 1968 Caldecott Medal.

    I appreciate your blog-site!


  4. We read The Little Engine That Could also. I had forgotten about it. “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.” was a common refrain around our house! Thanks for reading and taking the time to write! I'll check out Drummer Hoff.


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