Illustrated by Levente Szabo.
Published by Orion Children’s Books, 2021.
The Dragon and Her Boy is an exciting story of the very last living dragon, stuck living in a tunnel under London, and the boy who unintentionally finds himself as her protector.
Stick is a tumbler, a street acrobat who performs tricks for pennies. He’s one of a group of urchins or ‘gutterlings’ who live by their wits on the streets of London, barely scraping together enough money for food. When his two friends, Spud and Sparrow, mysteriously disappear after some freak earth tremors, Stick decides to look for them underground. It’s here that he meets the dragon and his adventure begins. Not only must he help free the trapped dragon and heal her wounds, he must also face his own demons. Stick has a dark secret from his past, one that up until now he’s kept buried, but it’s about to catch up with him.
I really enjoyed watching the friendship develop between Stick and the dragon; the bond that forms between them is pretty special. The power-balance is ever shifting as Stick learns how to handle the fiery and curmudgeonly dragon. Their conversations and interactions are often amusing, at times tender. The once magestic dragon is now tattered and bruised and she’s weary of life. Penny Chrimes has done a fantastic job of making a mythical creature seem real. The dragon appears to have lived for centuries, perhaps millennia, and is imbued with a sense of history. She is also rather partial to crumpets.
Penny has also brilliantly evoked a sense of place – London really comes alive on the page. From the revelry of Saint Bartholomew’s Fair to the danger of the city slums, and the crowds at Newgate baying for blood – all of London life is here. The historical setting is a Victorian/Georgian time-slip.
The story celebrates friendship as well as sensitively exploring themes of family, loss and grief.
The book’s villains are truly odious. Beetroot-faced Sir Jasper and his sister Gertrude are brilliantly realised in all their greedy, ruthless glory. The cast of street children are terrific too – lively, loyal and fearless. I also loved their manner of speech; they have their own way of talking, a sort of slang or dialect, and although you can figure out what they mean by the context, there’s a cracking glossary at the back of the book.
The Dragon and Her Boy is an epic adventure and Stick a courageous hero who proves himself worthy of his name.
Suitable for children aged 8+
Thank you to Orion Children’s Books for sending me this book to review.