Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Of the eighty-four poems forming Ogden Nash’s Custard and Company, only two concern the title character. Custard is a pet dragon belonging to Belinda, a little girl who lives in a little white house with a mouse, a kitten, and a puppy. The dragon is called Custard because the other pets think him a coward. In the first poem, “The Tale of Custard the Dragon,” Custard simply longs for the safety of a “nice cage,” while Ink the cat and Blink the mouse chase lions down the stairs and Mustard the dog brags of his own bravery. Yet, when a pirate—with a pistol in one hand and a cutlass in his teeth—comes through the window, Belinda and her pets cry for help. Custard, “snorting like an engine,” defends his friends, quickly devouring the pirate. A celebration ensues, and although Custard is praised as a hero, the cat, dog, and mouse still insist on their own personal bravery. Custard agrees that they are truly braver than he and longs once again for a safe, comfortable place like a cage.

The second Custard poem, the longest in the book at about 125 lines, expands on the first. Since having eaten the pirate, Custard spends his days dozing comfortably on the floor, dreaming “dragon dreams” as Belinda goes about her housework. One morning as Belinda is drying the dishes, she breaks into a song about Sir Garagoyle, a wicked knight who lives in a mountain castle. Ink the cat, Blink the mouse, and Mustard the dog reassure their mistress...

(The entire section is 594 words.)