For me The Dragon in the Library is one of the cleverest and different concepts to appear in that little space between highly illustrated early readers and MG from its magical system, to the illustrative stylings of Davide Ortu and then there’s the wonderful character of Kit who challenges tropes about femininity and protagonists.
The Monster in the Lake takes us from a London park to the highlands of Scotland with a wonderful respect for the landscape, and a gentle message promoting environmentally friendly living (albeit in this case with just a smidge of magical help!) and being kind to yourself and those around you.
This adventure takes place a few weeks into the summer holidays after Kit has found out not only she is a wizard but all librarians are and oh there’s a sleeping dragon living under each one.
After the events of book 1 (No spoilers) energies are still fizzing releasing a wild magic that seems to befuddle Kit’s progress, oh and then there’s the factor of talking dogs and something in the local pond that needs sorting out. Faith the librarian leads Kit and friends on a quest via a Scottish Mobile Library to find a way to bring everything back to some relative Wizarding normal, but something wicked this way comes.
Kit thought that was a very unimaginative name for a loch. It might as well be called Lochy McLochface
What I particularly loved as a fan of fantasy and magical stories was the reference to Magical water portals and the concept that water is linked everywhere (very ‘Water has Memory’ ⛄️) now I always knew there was something in the deep end of the swimming pool! 🤣
However it’s actually a great exploration of some real British regional folklore and a toe dip into the cryptozoological myths of the UK isles such as Loch Lochy.
My brain is mightier than My legs- *oh josh I hear you*
Kit is one of the most interesting protagonists I’ve seen in a while and I fangirled over here in my review for The Dragon in the Library because of her bucking the trend for MG heroines with her scruffy knees-dinosaur tee-don’t like to read persona flying in the face of the Matilda’s and Hermione bookish clever trope- not that there’s anything wrong with those tropes for indeed Kit’s best friends are bookish and clever but it is certainly exciting when something is different.
In this book Kit faces deeper challenges wobbles of faith in herself as a Magical Librarian whilst also dealing with typical childhood problems like negotiating the impact of her attitude and actions on her friends. This balance of the fantastical and the relatable makes Kit a very compelling hero.
Friends take more of a proactive role in this one, without spoilers it’s hard to say just what made me so cheerful but it’s nice to see Josh and Alita joining in, contributing and being valuable to the adventure even if they are not Wizards.
Ok and this is a silly point but this book also has a rather fun addition for certain grown up readers whether parent or educator much in the way that animation films layer jokes that adults will chuckle over their children’s oblivious heads.
Further to the wonderful role that Librarian Faith plays alongside the children this time we have the mobile library driving, adept cook, lover of reading, happy supportive and kind eco-living Duncan who is drawn like a rather hipster lumberjack. A kind of bookish millennial reimagining of Flynn Ryder (minus the sass) meets Jamie Fraser in shorts and to quote Marty McFly’s mum ‘Isn’t he a dreamboat?’
Now please note, I’m not one for thinking this way about characters in books – largely because I read MG and attractive, involved and kind grown up men (nor women) don’t really feature- usually eliminated in order to propel the plot for young protagonists (there are exceptions- Rooftoppers and MMU)-but I’m glad to see characters like him, more so as Duncan is a great positive role model of the range of modern masculinity for young readers!
Ok weirdness aside!
Davide absolutely knocks it out of the park with the illustrations, not merely for Duncan but for the 8-bit inspired sections, the magical creatures and to be honest the whole aesthetic of the book is outstanding!
Overall, The Monster in the Lake is a fantastic follow up and development upon the events of The Dragon in the Library with deeper self reflection and internal challenges as much as outer ones, it will be interesting to see how further books develop upon the challenges and revelations found within this tale.
Whole heartedly recommended!!
The Monster in the Lake by Louie Stowell and Davide Ortu is published by Nosy Crow