BooksforTopics Reading for Pleasure Recommendations
Book Title: The Great Sea Dragon Discovery (available here)
Author: Pippa Goodhart
Publisher: Catnip Books
Publication Date: July 2018
Most Suitable For: Upper KS2+
Reviewed By: Hayley Warner (@MrsHWteach), Assistant Headteacher
The year is 1860 and change is coming to the village of Grantchester, near Cambridge. Coprolite Mining has started in the area, bringing new (and old) faces to the village. For schoolboy Bill Ellwood – the main character of this story – this also brings the adventure that he has yearned for. But this isn’t without struggle, as he fights to keep his family together after accidentally getting his father fired from his gardening job as well as dealing with his mother’s constant disapproval.
With the help of his friend Alf Smith, Bill makes a discovery that will fascinate not only the village, but the fossil community and local scientists in Cambridge. But will it be enough to help his family?
As a teacher, there are many themes within this book that bring to mind links to the curriculum. Firstly, it is based on the Sedgwick Museum, with which Pippa Goodhart consulted (as explained in the book's afterword). Set in the Victorian period, there are many historical references to life in a Victorian village for a schoolboy or working child, with lots of opportunity to explore the vocabulary of the time. There are also many links to the discovery and care of fossils as well as some references to Darwin's Theory of Evolution, which would make this story appeal to any budding scientist.
The character of Bill is very likeable and could be described as inquisitive, daring and a dreamer. Being pre-teen, he is often treated more like an adult than child. However, Goodhart has cleverly written these events in a manner that I feel would not cause upset, but may raise questions that could be discussed in an upper key stage two classroom (NB: The themes of adoption, pregnancy and separation from family are referenced, but not mentioned in detail. There are also scenes exploring the topic of losing a baby).
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this story, especially with its references to real-life scientific discoveries and the history of Victorian Britain. It was easy to read and to keep track of the story, with a few added twists that I was not expecting, but felt fitted in well. I feel this would be a well-received book in any classroom with the potential for many writing opportunities.
Many thanks to the publisher for sending us a review copy of this book and to Hayley for reviewing it.