The Dragon And Her Boy
The Dragon And Her Boy by Penny Chrimes is the second of her books that draws us into the world of the Gutterlings; Tiger Heart being the First. This book tells the story of Stick, a young Tumbler living on the streets of London, and his unlikely friendship with a crumpet-loving dragon. Stick finds himself unintentionally drawn back into a world he would rather forget in order to rescue his friends from the evil clutches of Sir Jasper and his sister Gertrude, who are up to no good at Darkling Hall.
This intriguing tale begins on a scorching August day. The streets of London are bustling with people celebrating the biggest holiday of the year: St Bartholomew’s Day. However, full-scale pandemonium is unleashed as something causes the earth to shake violently; two of Stick’s friends (Spud and Sparrow) go missing, and Stick is filled with terror as he sees a conspicuous man emerge from the chaos of the streets. Stick knows more about this man than he lets on but also suspects that he might be connected to the strange goings-on. Stick decides to investigate, and this starts a chain of events beginning with two journeys: Stick’s mission to find Spud and Sparrow and his friends’ determination to find him. The story is fuelled with suspense as Stick’s repressed memories start to reveal themselves, each one revealing another part of his complicated history. I was left with a strong desire to discover what he was trying to keep buried in his ‘cupboard at the back of his head’ and the story certainly kept me guessing until the end.
Chrimes has created a London that is fashioned to suit the world the children live in. She describes it as ‘a time slip between the wild rumpus of Georgian England and the brilliant inventiveness of the Victorians’. The detailed descriptions of Stick’s London provide a glimpse into what life might have been like for homeless children in periods of history where they were left to fend for themselves – surrounded by people who were oblivious to their plight. This would provide some excellent talking points for children and there are many connections to be made with the Victorians, the Great Fire of London, Myths, Legends and stories set in a similar setting, such as Catherine Bruton’s, Another Twist In The Tale. There are some tender moments in the story, which is about bravery and friendship, measured ultimately with an act of selfless love. This will certainly lead to many powerful discussions.
I found myself completely immersed in stick’s world, largely due to the unique dialect and use of figurative language, which injects a richness into the text and makes it an ideal text to read aloud to children.
‘Looking up at those towering shapes framed against the moonlit sky, he was a child again, seeing one-legged giants with branches for arms, stretching down to snatch him up.’ (Page 202)
Words such as ‘comflobstigation,’ ‘carbuncle-face’, ‘clod-pate’ and ‘dunderhead’ will ignite children’s curiosity, appeal to their sense of humour and the adult reading it can have just as much fun creating a voice for each character. Each chapter heading features a picture of either a dragon’s tail or little houses to signify whether the chapter will follow Stick’s journey or his friend’s quest. Illustrations are interspersed at key moments in the story, bringing the events to life and at the end of the book there is a glossary titled, ‘Stick’s Guide To Gutterling,’ so further fun can be had investigating the language and features of the text.
The Dragon And Her Boy will make a valuable addition to any library or Upper Key Stage Two classroom. It certainly is a story to ‘belove’ for children and adults alike.
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