Trouble and the Exploding House by Cate Whittle ill Stephen Michael King

We had a visitor the other day. Which is weird. We don’t usually get visitors. For one, we live way up in the mountains and we don’t even have a road that comes to our place. And, for seconds, we live with a giant green dragon with blue wings and dried scaly bits around his ears. Which puts most people off.

Life is always going to be interesting when you live with a dragon who can change size at will. But when the Government man arrives and tells you that it’s not possible for you to continue to live in your house because it is in a Wildlife Park, things become even more ‘interesting’. The house was carried there by a dragon (Trouble) and it’s going to be difficult to move it, so the government says it will have to be blown up. Very soon. The race is on, to save their home. In between, Georgia continues to navigate school and friends and keeping Trouble out of … trouble. Most openings include black and white illustrations.

Trouble and the Penn family met when Trouble relocated their home. In this, the fourth adventure with Trouble, they are more or less accustomed to living with a dragon. There are definite advantages including riding to school, work and shopping on Trouble’s broad back. But there are also challenges, just like with any pet, and in any family. Georgia, as first person narrator, simply tells it like it is when you live on a mountain with a dragon. Humour sits underneath every sentence, every outrageous situation, but each is presented as very normal in the life of Georgia and the Penns. Recommended for newly independent readers comfortable with a longer story, but who will still enjoy the extra richness that illustrations bring.
Trouble and the Exploding House, Cate Whittle ill Stephen Michael King Omnibus Books 2017 ISBN: 9781742990798
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

Trouble at Home by Cate Whittle Ill Kim Gamble

Ages and ages ago – about two weeks since next Thursday – a giant green dragon stole my baby brother, Godfrey.

Well, okay, the giant green dragon actually stole the house. Godfrey, who is only almost three, was inside watching TV.

I saw it all happen. An actual eyewitness. From two houses down and across the street. At thirty-two-and-a-half minutes past three o’clock. Exactly.

Gran was minding Godfrey while Mum fetched me – Georgia – and my other brother, Henry, from school. Gran wasn’t in the house when it was stolen though.

Ages and ages ago – about two weeks since next Thursday – a giant green dragon stole my baby brother, Godfrey.

Well, okay, the giant green dragon actually stole the house. Godfrey, who is only almost three, was inside watching TV.

I saw it all happen. An actual eyewitness. From two houses down and across the street. At thirty-two-and-a-half minutes past three o’clock. Exactly.

Gran was minding Godfrey while Mum fetched me – Georgia – and my other brother, Henry, from school. Gran wasn’t in the house when it was stolen though.

Georgia returns home from school one afternoon to witness her house being stolen by a big green dragon. No one else saw it though and she has a struggle to convince them that she knows what has happened. Dad keeps trying to convince the family to look on the bright side, but Mum in particular is finding it difficult to see any positives in losing her baby – and their house. Georgia sees clues everywhere but no one will listen to her. It becomes clear to her that she’s going to have to make plans of her own if her house and her baby brother are to be reunited with the rest of the family. Black and white illustrations begin each chapter and are scattered throughout.

Trouble at Home is the first in a new series of stories from Cate Whittle with illustrations by the late Kim Gamble, with three forthcoming instalments listed in the final pages. At first it’s not apparent whether the dragon is a figment of Georgia’s imagination, but as her investigations progress, it’s evident that this dragon does exist. There are parallels with Anna and Barbara Fienberg’s ‘Tashi’ series, not only because they share an illustrator. There is plenty of deadpan humour as the family dynamics and adventures are reflected through Georgia’s first person perspective.  Ideal for the newly-independent reader, chapters are short and there is plenty to giggle at.

Trouble at Home, Cate Whittle ill Kim Gamble
Omnibus Books 2016
ISBN: 9781742990767

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

The Race for the Chinese Zodiac, by Gabrielle Wang, illustrated by Sally Rippin & Regine Abos

The Jade Emperor has decided to hold a great race. teh first twelve animals to cross the river will each have a year named after them. the animals are excited – but tehre are thirteen animals competing, so one will miss out. each animal must use their unique skills – or their wiliness – to get themself across the river.

The Race for the Chinese Zodiac is a gorgeous version of a classic Chinese legend, which is both entertaining and educational. Wang’s text captures both the excitement of the race and the character of the thirteen animals, and the illustrations are exquisite. A combination of brush and ink, linocut and digital media creates a satisfying whole with rich oranges and golds prominent. The design and layout makes this a real visual treasure.

First released in 2010, and newly released in paperback, The Race for the Chinese Zodiac is suitable for both private reading and classroom use.

The Race for the Chinese Zodiac, by Gabrielle Wang, illustrated by Sally Rippin & Regine Abos
Black Dog, 2012
ISBN 9781742032092

Available from good bookstores or online.