By Penny Chrimes
Orion Children’s Books, 2020, pp. 249 + 14, `399.00
NOTES IN CLASS: BOOK I—SCRIBBLE WITCH
Spellings and doodlings by Inky Willis
Hodder Children’s Books, an imprint of Hachette Children’s Books, 2020,
pp. 216, $ 12.95
Fly is short for Blow-fly–the name given by her employer Black Bill when he got her as a baby from the workhouse. Born a maggot, and grown up into a dirty fly is what he tells her. Scrawny, spunky Fly lives up to her name as she shinnies up and down the chimneys Bill makes her clean to earn a living.
Fly meets the tiger as she attempts to escape from Black Bill one day. The rapport between the two is instant and in scrappy Fly, the tiger recognizes the long-lost princess from his native land.The rest of the book is about Fly’s attempts to rescue the tiger and the other animals in the menagerie and take them back home–a place she doesn’t remember. Helping them in the adventure are a host of children from the underbelly of grimy London.
In the author’s own words–Fly inhabits a time-slip that’s slid somewhere between the rumble-tumble of the Georgians and the energy and inventiveness of the Victorians. Added to the tiger (with shades of Narnia’s Aslan) are a mysterious ruby, an exotic tropical kingdom and creepy, evil adversaries, making Tiger Heart evocative of so many beloved stories from an older age. The most wonderful part of the book however is the language of the gutterlings, as the street children of London call themselves. The poetry and inventiveness of the dialect makes their speech irresistibly read-aloud. A definite thumbs up to this roaring adventure of a magical friendship!