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Some folks’ll boast about their family trees,
And there’s some trees they ought to lop;
But our family tree, believe me, goes right back,
You can see monkeys sitting on top!

To give you some idea of our family tree,
And don’t think I’m boastin’ nor braggin’,
My great, great, great, great, great, great, great Uncle George,
Wor the Saint George who slaughtered the Dragon.

Aye, he wor a blacksmith, not one of the sort
Who shoe horses and sing anvil chorusses,
He used to shoe Dinasauss – big woolly Elephants,
Thumping great Brontosauruses.

Well, one day while he shod a Brontosauruses,
A feller ran into the forge,
He wor shivering with fright and his face pale and white,
And when he got his breath he said ‘George –

‘Eh, I’ve just seen a dragon, a whopping great dragon,’
And uncle said ‘Seen what? A dragon!
Thou’d best see a doctor, you’ve got ’em owld lad,
Eh, I thought you were on water wagon!’

But the fellow said, ‘Nay, ’twere a big fiery dragon,
‘Twere belchin’ out fire as it run!’
And Uncle George said ‘I could do with a dragon
With coal now at two quid a ton.’

And the feller said ‘Eh, but what’s more
I’ve just heard that the old Baron up at the Castle
Says, him as kills Dragon can marry his daughter,
She’s lovely and she’s worth a parcel.’

Then fellow goes off and old Uncle George thinks,
Of the brass and the bride in old satin,
So he brings out his pup and a pair of his ferrets,
And says to ’em ‘We’re going ratting.’

The ferrets they cocked up their noses with joy,
And the old Bull pup’s tail kept a-waggin’,
Then Uncle George shoves ’em a’side rabbit hole,
And says to ’em ‘Go on, fetch Dragon.’

Then suddenly he smells a sulphery smell,
Then he sees a big gigantic lizzard,
With smoke coming out of its eyes and its ear’oles,
And flames coming out of its gizzard.

And was George afraid? Yes, he was and he run,
And he hid there in one of the ditches,
While the Dragon, the pig, ate his ferrets and pup,
Aye, best of his prize-winning er – she dogs.

Then George said ‘Gad zooks! I’ll split thee to the wizzen,
By Gum, but he were in a fury,
And he runs to a junk shop, and buys a spear,
And he pinches a Drayhorse from Brew’ry.

Then he sallies forth with a teatray on chest,
On his head he’d a big copper kettle,
With a couple of flat irons to throw at the Dragon,
Owd George were a real man of mettle!

At last he meets Dragon beside of the pump,
Dragon sees him and breathes fire and slaughter,
But George he were ready and in Dragon’s mouth,
He just throws a big pail of water!

The Dragon’s breath sizzled he’d put out the fire,
Our family are all clever fellows!
Then so as that owd Dragon can’t blow up more fire,
With his big spear he punctures his bellows.

Then finding he’d killed it, he out with his knife,
He had gumption beside other merits –
And he cuts open Dragon, and under it’s vest,
Safe and sound are the pup and the ferrets.

That night the Old Baron gave Uncle his bride,
When he saw her he fainted with horror,
She’d a face like a kite, worse than that the old Baron
Said ‘George, you’ll be Saint George tomorrow.’

‘Course, as St George t’were no drinking nor smoking,
They barred him horse racing as well,
And poor old St George, when he looked at his Bride,
Used to wish that old Dragon to… Blazes!

And he got so fed up with this being a Saint,
And the Princess he’d won always naggin’,
That he bunked off one day and he opened a pub,
And he called it the ‘George and the Dragon.

And he did a fine trade, eh, for years and for years.
People all came from near and from far there
Just to see Uncle George and the Dragon which he had had,
Stuffed and hung up in the bar there.

T’were a thousand feet long and three hundred feet ‘wide,
But one day while a big crowd observed it,
It fell off the nail, and squashed Uncle George,
And the blinking old liar deserved it.

Copyright; Weston & Lee

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Children's books: 8-12

The best children’s books: 8-12 year-olds

From the small genius of The Borrowers to the giants of children’s books, the Narnia stories, Lucy Mangan and Imogen Russell-Williams pick their must-reads for 8-12 year-olds

Stig of the Dump: Clive King

This was the first original Puffin published in 1963. The story of eight-year-old loner Barney who befriends Stig, a remnant of the Stone Age hidden in the local chalk pit, has not been out of print since. The two boys grow to appreciate each other’s eras and skills as they contrive ingenious solutions to Stig’s various problems living out of the junk that is thrown into the pit. A modern classic.

Charlotte’s Web: EB White

“‘Where’s Papa going with that ax?’ said Fern to her mother” is probably the most famous opening line of any children‘s book. He is going to dispatch Wilbur, the runt of the litter, until Fern pleads for clemency. With the help of Wilbur’s wise and devoted friend, Charlotte, the spider is able to live out the rest of his days in safety. You may feel like warning your child that Charlotte dies “as spiders do” at the end of the summer. You should resist. It’s a book that teaches you that characters can be made to live for ever simply by turning back to the first page and starting again.

The Family from One End Street: Eve Garnett

This episodic collection of the adventures (in the late 1930s) of the multitudinous Ruggles family (seven children, two parents) was one of the first books for this age group to take working-class life as its central theme and to depict it with charm and without condescension. They remain as fresh as the day they were penned.

The Story of Tracy Beaker: Jacqueline Wilson

One End Street was Wilson’s favourite book as a child and its influence can be seen in all her wildly popular books, which speak just as directly and unpatronisingly to and about the kind of children underrepresented in young fiction. Tracy Beaker is their totem, an irrepressibly imaginative child (though the staff in her care home say she has “behavioural problems”) who writes the story of her life while waiting for her mother to come and get her back.

Matilda: Roald Dahl

It’s almost impossible to choose between Dahls but Matilda is one of the most borrowed by children so let us pick her – especially as it helps refute the charges of misogyny occasionally aimed at Dahl. Matilda is the superbright daughter of horrible parents who helps free her schoolmates and her lovely teacher Miss Honey from the tyranny of Miss Trunchbull, the headmistress. All of Dahl’s exuberance and cartoon brutality is on display here, just the way kids like it.

Tom’s Midnight Garden: Philippa Pearce

Exquisitely written, perfectly pitched and suffused with a gentle yearning, the story of lonely Tom – who discovers that the gardenless flat in which he is staying returns at midnight to its days of Victorian splendour – is Pearce’s masterpiece. And if you don’t cry at the final scene, well, you’ll know you’re dead inside.

The Phantom Tollbooth: Norton Juster

Bored, disaffected young Milo receives a mysterious present – a purple tollbooth – and sets off on a journey through Dictionopolis and Digitopolis, cities at war in the Kingdom of Wisdom which has banished the Princesses of Rhyme and Reason. It dazzled, discomfited, enmeshed and then enraptured me.

The Narnia books: CS Lewis

Yes, they’re very much of their time and place, an oak-panelled room in the oak-panelled 1950s – and maybe you’ll want to drop The Last Battle, where the whole Christian allegory thing becomes crudely explicit, behind the sofa – but until then it’s a riot of fauns, talking beavers and dancing dryad in a cracking set of stories.

Harry Potter: JK Rowling

No, they’re not great literature. But, like Enid Blyton, they give new readers quick and convincing proof that reading can be fun. For that alone – although I’d argue they achieve more than that – Rowling’s boy has earned his Z-shaped stripes.

The Borrowers: Mary Norton

The Borrowers – tiny people, living secretly in the houses of “human beans” and scavenging therein – are a wonderful idea. The story of young Arrietty’s growing frustration with life under the floorboards speaks forever to children’s irritation with their own circumscribed world. If only we could all pole vault with a hatpin out of here.

Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror: Chris Priestly

Mesmerising, understated, and convincingly Victorian in tone, these grisly ghost stories are beautifully framed by the mysterious Uncle Montague, telling tales of his sinister knick-knacks to his nephew Edgar over tea and cake. A book for children who enjoy being frightened – and a perfect introduction to Saki and Edgar Allan Poe.

The Lionboy Trilogy: Zizou Corder

This riproaring trilogy crams in everything – dystopian oppression, passionate conservationism, villainous relatives, shipboard circuses and a boy who can speak to cats, all set in a petrol-poor, corporation-controlled future. Charlie Ashanti discovers his scientist parents have been kidnapped by the corporation because they’re on the verge of discovering a breakthrough cure for asthma. Charlie must travel to Paris, Venice, Morocco and Haiti, i

n the company of the lions he has freed from a drug-administering tamer, to set the world to rights. Joyous.

Skellig: David Almond

Michael, worried because his baby sister has been born prematurely, finds a curious creature in the garage of his family’s new home. Unethereal in its tastes – which include brown ale and Chinese takeaway – the being nevertheless seems to have wings. Skellig celebrates children’s unfiltered, Technicolor perceptions of the exciting world in which they live. A bookshelf essential.


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