One day Luye and Dad went up to Prospect Park. It was autumn. The leaves on the trees were turning wonderful colors - red, orange, yellow, purple - and lots of leaves had fallen to the ground. That's why autumn is often called the Fall, because of the leaves that fall.
"Look at the trees, Luye," said Dad. "They are as colorful as dragons."
"Are there dragons in the park?" asked Luye.
"I don't think so," laughed Dad.
He sat down on the grass and looked at the view. Luye wandered over to the trees.
She was glad there were no dragons in the park. She knew from Dad's stories that they were big fierce creatures, with stumpy wings and a long tail. They have a line of sharp spikes sticking out of their backs.
Worst of all, when dragons are angry, they open their mouths to roar and a long streak of flame comes rushing out. It burns up everything in its path.
Luye came to a drab-looking tree with a log lying next to its trunk. She sat down on the log to look at the view, just like Dad.
"Hey, get off me," came a voice.
Luye jumped off the log and looked around. She could see no one. She sat down again.
"Get off my tail," said the voice.
Luye leapt up. "Who said that?" she asked.
She looked at the log and saw it twitch. It wasn't a log at all, but a long fat tail curled around the tree. Then the trunk of the tree stretched and wriggled.
"Who are you?" Luye asked.
"I'm a dragon," the creature said. "I've disguised myself as a tree so people won't bother me."
Luye stepped back fearfully and looked around for her Dad.
"Oh, I won't hurt you," said the dragon. "Some dragons are nice." He sighed sadly. "I'm afraid I'm one of the nice ones."
"What's wrong with that?" asked Luye. "I don't like angry dragons."
"Well, you see, it's like this," said the dragon. "Dragons get their brilliant colors from the fire inside them. If I don't get angry and roar, the flames won't build up and come belching out of my mouth."
Luye was secretly rather glad. She'd burnt her finger badly on a match once.
"That's why I'm stuck here looking like a drab old tree," said the dragon dolefully. "All my friends flew away and left me because I wasn't brightly colored like them. I'll probably freeze to death when the winter snow falls."
Luye felt sorry for the nice dragon who couldn't get angry.
"Why don't you pretend to roar," said Luye.
"I've tried that," said the sad dragon, "but it doesn't work. Watch me."
The leaves, which were really the scales on the dragon's hard knobby skin, rattled as he took a deep breath. He opened his mouth and out came - a little squeak like the creak of an old tree.
Luye thought and thought. Then she said, "Dad sometimes says people roar with laughter. Have you tried laughing?"
"How do you do that?" asked the dragon sorrowfully.
"Oh, it's easy," said Luye. She saw on the tree trunk a round knot hole which looked like a tummy button. She ran up to it and started tickling it, just like Dad tickled hers to make her laugh.
But it didn't work for the dragon. The knot hole was hard and tough, not soft and sensitive like Luye's tummy button.
Luye tried again. "Look at me, look at me," she said, then pulled a face. She scrunched her face up so it looked like a battered old potato. The dragon only sighed.
Luye pulled one corner of her eye up with a finger, and twisted her mouth down with her other hand, then opened her eyes wide.
The dragon didn't laugh. He said, "You still look prettier than most dragons I know."
"I'll show you a trick," insisted Luye. She bent over, put her hands on the ground, tucked her head down, then somersaulted over on her back. Her dress flew up and covered her face. Luye laughed.
The corners of the dragon's mouth curled up. It was almost a smile. He liked this little girl a lot.
"I'll do two more tricks," said Luye, holding two fingers up to show how many.
She bent down and flipped herself over again. And again her dress flew up and got tangled over her head.
Luye bent down to do it once more. She didn't see she was headed straight for a big pile of leaves on the ground.
This time when she spun over her head, she disappeared into the middle of the leaf pile. Leaves flew everywhere as Luye popped her head out of the pile.
The dragon took one look at the leaves sticking out of her hair and threw his head back. He let out a great roar of laughter. A huge plume of flame and smoke shot out of his mouth and curled up into the sky.
"You did it, you did it," Luye cried excitedly.
The dragon turned a brilliant medley of colors, red and gold and green and purple. He was so happy.
"Now I can join my friends again," he said.
"Are you leaving me?" asked Luye. It was her turn to be sad. She didn't want to lose her new friend.
"I'll be back with my friends next summer," said the dragon as he flew away. "Goodbye, and thank you."
Just then Dad came up to her. "Who are you talking to?" he asked.
"Just a dragon that I made laugh," said Luye.
"Really?" said Dad. "So you think there are dragons here?"
"Not now," said Luye, "but there'll be lots of them next summer."
Soft cover, 10 stories, 2 poems, 100 pages, 37 color & 2 black and white illustrations,
10¾" x 7¼", $18.50", plus shipping and handling.