Posted in Weekly Posts

Musing Monday (January 13)


Hosted by Should Be Reading
Musing Mondays asks you to muse about one of the following each week…• Describe one of your reading habits.

• Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s).

• What book are you currently desperate to get your hands on? Tell us about it!

• Tell us what you’re reading right now — what you think of it, so far; why you chose it; what you are (or, aren’t) enjoying it.

• Do you have a bookish rant? Something about books or reading (or the industry) that gets your ire up? Share it with us!

• Instead of the above questions, maybe you just want to ramble on about something else pertaining to books — let’s hear it, then!

On Saturday I got an email from Jane Davis, author of A Funeral For An Owl with a copy of her latest manuscript for beta reading.  Now I’ve read her earlier books well before publication but never quite so early on in the process.  I have a list of questions to answer and I need to read it on my laptop so that I can make comments.  This is quite a different reading experience to normal, I have to read slowly and consider what I am reading, questioning as I go in a far more critical manner than I would normally do when devouring a novel.

So I started and read the dedication which was to Vikki ‘Braver than a Barrowful of Bears.’  Instantly I was ambushed by memories of me as a young mother, standing in the kitchen cooking while reciting the wonderful Ogden Nash poem The Tale of Custard the Dragon with my two young children.

I’ve mentioned previously how a few poems can be a lifesaver with small children to entertain when you have your hands full (Friday Finds November 22) and The Tale of Custard the Dragon was one of our favourites with the frightened dragon, inspired rhymes and the more dubious quality of provoking those fateful words lets do a show from the bossy eldest to the bewildered youngest.  For those of you that haven’t met ‘Let’s do a show!’ the story goes like this:  The dressing up box is raided, roles are divided up with the bossy child taking all the best ones, mother is summoned to watch (note the lack of planning), there is often a dance where the bossy child berates the other child for not instinctively knowing what they are supposed to be doing, or when and then finally there is some semblance of acting before one stomps off in a huff or the other one says they are not doing it anymore!

The Tale of Custard the Dragon was one of our more successful efforts as the poem could be recited whilst the acting went on; there was chasing of the lions down the stairs which resulted in manic racing around the living room,  Ink could ‘Meowch’ in an incredibly high pitched voice with Belinda rivalling him for the top C with her Ooh before  the pirate climbed through the make-believe winda with his wonky hat and fingers pointed for guns, all of which meant on rare occasions we got to the end and managed to do the very important bow to the audience!

Anyway it made me think how much I enjoy references to poems and books in my reading.  One of the reasons why I enjoyed The Bookstore by Deborah Meyler so much was down to the pleasure I got from being reminded of much loved books.  Needless to say I am loving this manuscript, especially the young protagonist Belinda!

For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of the poem I’ve posted it below.


By Ogden Nash

Copyright Linell Nash Smith and Isabel Nash Eberstadt

Belinda lived in a little white house,
With a little black kitten and a little gray mouse,
And a little yellow dog and a little red wagon,
And a realio, trulio, little pet dragon.

Now the name of the little black kitten was Ink,
And the little gray mouse, she called her Blink,
And the little yellow dog was sharp as Mustard,
But the dragon was a coward, and she called him Custard.

Custard the dragon had big sharp teeth,
And spikes on top of him and scales underneath,
Mouth like a fireplace, chimney for a nose,
And realio, trulio, daggers on his toes.

Belinda was as brave as a barrel full of bears,
And Ink and Blink chased lions down the stairs,
Mustard was as brave as a tiger in a rage,
But Custard cried for a nice safe cage.

Belinda tickled him,she tickled him unmerciful,
Ink, Blink and Mustard, they rudely called him Percival,
They all sat laughing in the little red wagon
At the realio, trulio, cowardly dragon.

Belinda giggled till she shook the house,
And Blink said Week!, which is giggling for a mouse,
Ink and Mustard rudely asked his age,
When Custard cried for a nice safe cage.

Suddenly, suddenly they heard a nasty sound,
And Mustard growled, and they all looked around.
Meowch! cried Ink, and Ooh! cried Belinda,
For there was a pirate, climbing in the winda.

Pistol in his left hand, pistol in his right,
And he held in his teeth a cutlass bright,
His beard was black, one leg was wood;
It was clear that the pirate meant no good.

Belinda paled, and she cried, Help! Help!
But Mustard fled with a terrified yelp,
Ink trickled down to the bottom of the household,
And little mouse Blink strategically mouseholed.

But up jumped Custard, snorting like an engine,
Clashed his tail like irons in a dungeon,
With a clatter and a clank and a jangling squirm
He went at the pirate like a robin at a worm.

The pirate gaped at Belinda’s dragon,
And gulped some grog from his pocket flagon,
He fired two bullets but they didn’t hit,
And Custard gobbled him, every bit.

Belinda embraced him, Mustard licked him,
No one mourned for his pirate victim
Ink and Blink in glee did gyrate
Around the dragon that ate the pyrate.

Belinda still lives in her little white house,
With her little black kitten and her little gray mouse,
And her little yellow dog and her little red wagon,
And her realio, trulio, little pet dragon.

Belinda is as brave as a barrel full of bears,
And Ink and Blink chase lions down the stairs,
Mustard is as brave as a tiger in a rage,
But Custard keeps crying for a nice safe cage.


There is a version in book form illustrated by Lynne Munsinger and although in my mind this is always one to be recited not read (none of the pictures drawn in our house looked like her dragon) but despite my misgivings this would make a lovely gift for a child.

Custard the Dragon

Do you or did you recite poetry with your children, if so what are your favourites?

Related Posts

Forgiven by A.A. Milne

The Bookstore by Deborah Meyler

A Funeral for an Owl by Jane Davis


A book lover who clearly has issues as obsessed with crime despite leading a respectable life

10 thoughts on “Musing Monday (January 13)

    1. Thank you 🙂 It is funny how things come flooding back. I spoke to my daughter last night and I just mentioned the dedication and instantly she said ooh how lovely and started quoting the first verse….

      I’m enjoying reading the manuscript and feel really honoured to be included in the group… a bit nerve-racking though as I want my feedback to be useful.


  1. I haven’t heard of this poem, it’s so sweet, I am going to share this with my daughter now 🙂

    And what exactly is beta reading? Do you send feedback to the author to improve the book. How differently do you read?


    1. Hi Nish, I’m sure your daughter will love it 🙂

      Beta reading is when the author has finished their drafts and sends it out to a group with a view to ensuring there are no inaccuracies etc. e.g. one of my questions is around whether certain chapters should be from the viewpoint from the daughter or the mother… I have a list to consider while I am reading. Jane states that if more than one person picks up on the same thing that is her cue to change that part…. I find I have to read much slower and consider the questions as I am going when normally I read fast without wondering could this be done differently. I’m not a particularly critical reader normally so it is a good exercise for me (I just hope my input will be helpful)


  2. Thanks for sharing the poem and I love the cover art.

    Like you said, beta reading is very different. My cousin and I have swapped chapters from our novels and have spent hours reading and reviewing them. My method is to just read the chapters first as if I was a regular reader to see the feeling I get: am I hooked? Are the characters likable? And then I reread with her questions in mind and make notes as I go. Good luck!


    1. That’s probably a good way to do it. I have to say reading on the computer rather than on my kindle makes me concentrate a little bit more rather than just enjoying the story (which I am)
      The dedication and references to this much loved poem didn’t help though as it really did bring back strong memories when I needed to apply myself to the actual story rather than nostalgia! 😉


  3. I have never heard of Beta Reading before, and I don’t think it is for me, anyway, I read for fun and entertainment. I have never heard the poem before either, but it is interesting.


    1. Thanks Gigi, beta reading is far more like a job than reading for pleasure but I’m honoured to have been asked to lend a hand. My resolution is to accept more opportunities to do new things so I’ve started the year well.
      The poem is very appealing to children and not as annoying as some; most things loose their shine when endlessly repeated at a small child’s demand!


  4. After attending a workshop by a reading specialist, I started reading poems to my students. They enjoyed how easily they could memorize them, even the more difficult words and phrases. Poetry rocks!


    1. Hi Allison, that’s really interesting. I think poems have the ability to stay with you for a lifetime. Speaking to my daughter, probably a good 15+ years since the time described in my post, I said that the book I was reading had the dedication which included ‘As brave as a barrelful of bears’ and the joy of recognition in her voice down the phone-line of a favourite poem was a joy to hear. I found both my children loved poetry and you are right about not only remembering more complex words and phrases but understanding them in context.


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