Cover illustration by Lisa Horton
Billy Ellwood spends his days at school dreaming of bigger, more exciting questions than those posed by his teacher. Would a plant drink no as happily as water? How do spiders know how to spin perfect fly-catching webs? When his dad loses his job, Billy takes a job at the coprolite diggings against his mother’s wishes and his curious mind is fascinated by the different shapes of the nodules. His interest is fuelled further after a trip to Cambridge market where Mr Seeley takes him to the Woodwardian Museum, and he is determined to find fossils for Mr Seeley to buy so he can support his family.
A late night trip to the diggings sees Billy make a remarkable discovery that might be the answer to his prayers, a way to set things right, if he can overcome the obstacles life keeps putting in his way…
Read in one sitting, The Great Sea Dragon Discovery is a gripping historical fiction with bucket loads of heart and plenty of plot twists amidst the adventure that Billy’s life becomes. Packed with big questions about evolution, and how fossils were viewed at the time, this is a work of fiction that is bound to spark curiosity about the facts it’s based on.
Billy is an extremely likeable and relatable character despite the years that separate him from modern day. He is desperate to make something of himself, but knows he must support his family when his father and mother can’t. His friendship with his cousin, Alf, and the rest of the Smith family flows naturally within the story, with their characters giving each other the courage to step up and save themselves and their families. As for Mrs Coddle, there are few characters I’ve read that leave such a chilling impression, but I’ll leave you to make up your own mind about her.
Based on the local history where the author grew up, The Great Dragon Discovery is not only historically accurate in many respects, but also scientifically accurate, making it perfect for anyone interested in fossils, Darwin and 1860’s working class Britain. It’s also a brilliantly told social narrative on the norms of the 1860s. Teachers, do make sure you check out the guest post by the author, Pippa Goodheart, for Tips On Using The Great Sea Dragon Discovery In The Classroom.
Great for fans of Sky Chasers, The Book Of Boy and Black Powder.
Huge thanks to Laura Smythe and Catnip Books for sending me a copy for review.