'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Tuesday 16 March 2021

Review: The Dragon and Her Boy

Although I had not read the earlier book, Tiger Heart, there was no difficulty in reading this second which continues the stories of guttersnipes in a London that blends Georgian and Victorian times in a chaotic and colourful adventure.

Stick is a tumbler who performs in the streets with his chums, Spud and Sparrow. At night they take refuge with other street urchins on Pickled Herring Stairs and scratch their meagre livings as best they can. Usually, the Bartholomew Fair would be an occasion where there is money to be made easily but there is something very amiss (or more than usual) with the streets of London. 

After weeks of stifling heat which has created the ‘great stink’ it now seems the very ground is breaking up beneath the citizens’ feet. 

After a violent tremor, Stick realises that both Spud and Sparrow have disappeared, and he is determined to find them. 

Following his instinct to squeeze inside an almost hidden fissure in the street, Stick is horrified to find himself face to face with a real live dragon.

The ancient and very curmudgeonly beast is stuck and in pain, and while Stick is very reluctant to do so, he helps her to safety as he pieces together the other mysterious happenings in the street. His glimpse of a very unsavoury man just prior to his friends’ disappearance has him trembling as he fights to repress memories from six years earlier. The dragon’s story, as it unfolds, implicate this person more and more into the weirdness that has enveloped London and Stick realises that it is going to be up to him to save not only his friends, along with other missing children, but also the old dragon.

The plot twists and turns with many intersections between Stick’s past and present while all the time he and the dragon form a bond that will be measured by selfless love.

This is a vibrant and rollicking adventure filled with glorious descriptions of the lives and world of the gutterlings. The villains are very nasty indeed and the ragged children all valiant and game to take them on leading to a highly satisfactory conclusion.

Stick’s secret and his repressed memory are laid bare for all to see but to a good end, and able readers will thoroughly enjoy this excursion into an imagined history where children were often left to fend for themselves as the victims of an oblivious society. Thoughtfully the author has included a glossary which explains the use of the quaint and colourful vernacular used throughout.

All in all, it is a wonderful expression of loyalty and true friendship in which evil is vanquished and justice upheld and readers in Upper Primary onwards would very much enjoy it.

Title: The Dragon and Her Boy
Author: Penny Chrimes
Publisher: Hachette, $15.99
Publication Date: February 2021
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781510107120
For ages: 10+
Type: Middle Grade Fiction