Sunday, 8 June 2014

Billy is a Dragon: Werewolves Beware

Billy is a Dragon: Werewolves Beware by Nick Falk, illustrated by Tony Flowers (Random House Australia Children’s)
PB RRP $12.99
ISBN 9780857983077
Also available as an ebook
ISBN 9780857983084
Reviewed by Marian McGuinness

Billy is at it again. In the first book of the series Billy finds out he is a were-dragon, meaning he can shape-shift from a nine-year-old boy into a green, scaly dragon. It’s a very handy talent, especially when confronted by Bludger, who bullies anyone ‘smaller’ than him.

One morning Billy wakes up feeling weird. He’s just found out that his mortal enemy, a werewolf, is chasing him. Billy’s a pretty useless ‘shifter’ and worse still, the soccer trials are on and Bludger the bully is the try-out captain.

Bertha the bulldog and Polly the parrot watch as Billy practises shapeshifting. Polly constantly interrupts his concentration by blurting out ‘Big Blue Bottom’ and ‘Bogie Brain.’ Then, with a ‘RRRRRIP …’ Billy’s tail shoots through the back of his underpants and out the bedroom window.

Billy calls on his best friend Jeannie to help him as his big sister thinks something’s very fishy. Billy and Jeannie escape from his house incognito – dressed in vegetable costumes. Hilarious situations arise when they get to school.

There’s a huge problem for Billy. When he most needs to shape-shift, he goes ‘squiffy.’ He’s so filled with anxiety that his nerves get the better of him. I really like Falk’s ideas here. There are lots of kids who are affected by nerves. Falk doesn’t underplay this fear. He treats it as normal and then injects the situation with humour. Billy ends up enlisting the help of Benny (the pet shop owner and were-hamster) who gives him a crash course in shapeshifting.

Falk is great at charging the plot with ‘what-ifs’. It works hilariously and takes you by surprise. The twist at the end comes from left field. I won’t spoil it for you other than saying the werewolf wasn’t after Billy.

Nick Falk and internationally acclaimed illustrator and artist, Tony Flowers, are a great team. The black and white illustrations add extra dollops of visual humour and perfectly complement the written narrative. A rollicking read for 6+.

There’s nothing ordinary about Falk’s writing style – it’s Falk-less. I’m ready for Book Number 3.

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