The dragon and her boy by Penny Chrimes

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The Dragon and her boy by Penny Chrimes follows the magical Tiger Heart and is set in the same world of the streetkids (Gutterlings) of Georgian/Victorian London. Stick, our main character, bridges both books. He lives and survives on the streets with his friends by performing gymnastic feats for money, by stealing and by dodging authority. The children survive in harsh conditions, sleeping rough and living and working together in a loyal group. The reality of childhood diseases, possibly rickets and uncorrected disabilities like crossed eyes (Strabismus) is rife but the joy of the bonds between the children and the substitute for family that they provide each other is heart-warming.

Chrimes uses the street vernacular very effectively and provides a glossary at the back of the terms that are used. The banter between the children and the chatter of the street market stall holders is lively and irreverent, in some cases downright rude but seemingly authentic. Stick has a natural authority amongst the other children and from the outset there are hints of a different birth and early experience. He has had a dark past and manages the pain by compartmentalising his thoughts. Flashes of memory are triggered and emerge, leading to an unavoidable journey to recapture his rightful heritage and avenge wrongs. In this process he is accompanied by the dragon who he discovers living under the cobbled streets of the meat markets of Smithfield. A wonderful friendship develops and the reader is dragged through the underground history of London and out into the countryside.

I loved this book and would have highly recommended it. Though all is avenged in the end, I wrestle with the appropriateness of euthanasia. Possibly this book is a metaphor for growing up and getting rid of childhood things but I question the resolution of this story. It is possibly so shocking that it prevents me from recommending this book to children younger than 12 which is a shame because the story was so much fun up until the last chapter.

Themes: Euthanasia, Dragons, Friendship, Loyalty, Street kids of Victorian/ Georgian London.

Wendy Jeffrey