Title: The Portland Sea Dragon
Series title: The Portland Chronicles
Author: Carol Hunt
Publication date: 21 March 2010
Format: 198 x 130 mm
Number of pages: 128
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This is the first in a series of four children’s books set on and around Portland and Weymouth written by local author Carol Hunt. The Portland Chronicles draw on local history, exploring a seventeenth century world of smuggling, witchcraft, piracy and local intrigue. The Chronicles aim to capture children’s imagination with stories based on real places and local folklore.
There’s a sea dragon flying over Portland, a bad omen:
The islanders fear him
Isabel, aged 12, longs to see him
The Portland witch befriends him
Mrs Greychurch plans to kill him
When the dragon is accused of murder after the unexplained disappearance of Sally Lucke in 1616, only Isabel can solve the mystery. So she sets out on a time-travelling adventure. Along the way, her cool friend Ben, annoying little sister Susie, and Gregor, a scruffy collie dog with attitude, both help and hinder Isabel’s search.
Will she escape the smuggler Joseph Groves?
Can she evade the devious mermaid in Deadman's Bay?
Can she unravel the truth and free the lonely dragon?
And, in the end, does the mermaid claim her frightening prize?
| What reviewers have said:|
|Thank you for writing The Portland Sea Dragon. Having got it home I devoured it last night. As I suspected, it is far too good for children! Being a ‘dragomaniac’ I was entralled by the descriptions of the dragon in all his environments. Having a slightly fossilised brain, your clever time changes fooled me to start with, but I soon got into the swing of it. You are to be congratulated on producing a super book; not least in your portrayal of horrible sisters and adorable collie dogs. Thank you. I can’t wait for the next Portland Chronicle. |
Wakeham resident, Portland
Blackmore Vale Magazine article click HERE|
Western Gazette article on Domini Deane etc click HERE|
Western Gazette article on Book Launch etc click HERE|
| ‘People seem excited to be reading a story set in places they know and like to visit.’|
|‘I have just finished the book this morning and loved it. Believe me, these days when I struggle to read two pages of Woman's Own in bed before my eyes close that is very very fast! Well done Carol. Can't wait for the second one!’|
|My wife, Marion, wanted to say that she really loved The Portland Sea Dragon and can't wait for the next instalment. She's 45 so your writing has a broad age range appeal! Ian Baird|
|I like Gregor because he is very naughty. I wanted to go swimming with the mermaids but I'd like them to be good. I would also like to ride the sea dragon (he would make a very nice aeroplane). At the end I didn't know what was going to happen (would Sally be saved or not?). I also liked the funny bits. Charlotte, aged 8|
|Not just for the young, I am 51 and became totally immersed in the story. Living on Portland I hope one day to see The Sea Dragon. |
This book conveys all the magic and mystery of this enchanting island. Tricia (Amazon review)
|Picked up the book because of the cover, and discovered a captivating tale with a dragon, mermaid, time travel and more! When is the next installment coming? I want more! Somer (Amazon review)|
The Portland Sea Dragon is launched!
Thanks to everyone who came to the book launch at White Stones Café and Gallery. People were queuing out the room to meet Carol and Domini and have their books signed. Thanks too to all the children who made a great effort to come in fancy dress; there were some beautiful mermaids, a couple of dragons and the odd smuggler. As part of the fun, children wrote poems and stories, and there was lots of colouring and drawing, as shown below.
Dragons (Ella Day, aged 9)
Dragons are mythical
Creatures they are.
They live in haunted caves,
Listening to the crashing waves.
They haunt like ghosts,
Among the boats of Terras.
They love to fly,
Breath fire in the sky,
Trying to burn the people
As they swoop and dive.
The Mountain Dragon (Megan Thomas, aged 11)
One day I was hiking up Portland. I was gradually going up what seemed to be a mountain. I reached the misty top of Portland and suddenly a big green dragon appeared from out of the gloom, breathing and spitting out bright orange flames.
Mermaids (Imogen Day, aged 8)
Once there was a man, he always went diving. He said, ‘Tomorrow I will try to find a mermaid, dry it and make it have legs. I’ll teach the mermaid how to walk, dance and sing and then I will marry it and buy it a ring’.
The Water (Jade Hunt, aged 11)
The water shimmered in the mid-day sun, and it seemed as if one million silver fish were swimming by. My eyes set on a tail in the deep blue, with eyes as sharp as daggers and hair that tangled and curled like seaweed. And suddenly I realised before me swam a mermaid.
A Poem (Rosie Musk, aged 8)
I like mermaids, they live in the sea.
I like mermaids, they’re as cute as can be.
I like dragons, with their fiery breath.
But the Portland sea dragon doesn’t bring death.
About the Author
|Carol grew up on Hayling Island, in some ways a similar world to the
Isle of Portland, Dorset, where she now lives. She was often free to
roam and explore, to study the sea and its moods, dreaming of ghostly
pirate ships, bottles with secret messages and terrifyingly huge waves.
As a child her favourite books were The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien, Ring of
Bright Water by Gavin Maxwell and The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark by
Carol went to school at Midhurst Convent in West Sussex, where the girls looked like black and white penguins in their old-fashioned uniforms, long dark skirts and hats. When Carol left school she took a degree in English Literature and History at University College, Chichester. She also trained as a teacher, and worked in publishing for several years in Petersfield.
Carol left work to bring up her three children and moved to Portland in 2005. During this time, she was an adviser to young people for Connexions South Central and later at Waves, Weymouth. She enjoyed meeting young people and talking to them and was always amazed by their courage and positivity, and how they overcame problems in their lives.
| Carol often walked along the west cliffs of Portland, feeling that
there was a story waiting to be told. Her daughters liked the tales she
told them about a dragon, so she concentrated on writing about this
mysterious creature. In the story, the dragon was both a real animal
and a symbol of Portland, its mystery, magic and danger. She wrote the
story in one month, January 2007. As the story involved flashbacks to
1616, she then researched the history of smuggling and witches in
Dorset. She wrote three further Portland Chronicles over the next three
years, using local myths as inspiration, such as the black dog and the
mermaid. Carol rewrote The Portland Sea Dragon several times after her
children read it and made suggestions to improve the story. The
characters became so real that she expected to bump into them. Perhaps
one day she will meet Mrs Groves walking Gregor the sheepdog, or
glimpse the mermaid in the sea at Church Ope Cove.|
Some of her characters are based on real people or animals. Gregor is a real dog, and Isabel is based on her daughter’s best friend. Suzie is like her own sister, Lisa. Agnes Maydew, the island witch, draws on her research into how herbalists and witches were seen in the past. Other than this, most of the characters in the books are fictional, but the Isle of Portland itself is a very real and important part of the story.
|Why did you write this story?|
I used to make up stories for my twin daughters at bedtime about a dragon called Godfrey to get them to go to bed! So writing about a dragon seemed like a great idea. Dragons are always appealing, scary and mysterious. I was also inspired by Portland, the history of the island, its myths and legends. I often walk around the island on my own and imagine all the amazing things that could be happening just around the corner. One day, I expect I will bump into Gregor the naughty sheepdog and his owner Mrs Groves.
Are the characters based on anyone you know?
Gregor is based on a real dog who is an important part of our family. Her name is Daisy and she lives with my parents, where she runs the household. She feels that anyone who comes into the house is a sheep and herds them. She trashes her dog bed and eats the blankets. She also eats her toys and huge numbers of biscuits. She is friendly, curious and incredibly clever.
Isabel is also based on a real person, my daughter’s best friend. She is the kind of person who would track down a dragon and sort out mysteries from the past. She would fight smugglers, question witches and boss everyone about.
Suzie is based on my sister who had her own unique style of doing things when we were younger. Like my daughter Jasmine, Suzie is also obsessed with sheep. For years, I have expected to come home and find a Portland sheep in the garden. Perhaps next month ...
What research did you do?
I did a lot of research over three years. I read history books about Dorset and looked at the history of witchcraft too. I liked the history books so much that I made up my own for one of the last chapters of the story. I wanted Sally Lucke, who mysteriously disappears in 1616, to be a real, modern character, who tries to challenge the way things are for young women in 1616. When I picture her, I see a seventeenth century Jordan.
Why did you set the story on Portland?
I live on Portland and find it a very interesting place, with its own unique history and weird folklore. The Isle of Portland is one of the most important parts of the book and I set all the action and adventures in real parts of Portland. Most of the book is set on the west cliffs, at Church Ope and in the centre of Portland at fictional Groves Farm.
What are you writing about now?
I am working on the next two books in the series. Book two is about the enchantment of the black dog, a mythical creature who lives on Portland. I also look more closely at the sinister mermaid and who she really is. The third book is about pirates.
What are you planning for the future?
I would like to complete the series of four books on Portland and then make it up from there!
What are you writing about now?
I am working on the final two books in the series. The second, Enchantment of the Black Dog, was launched in December 2010 and follows Isabel's adventures with the mysterious Black Dog of Portland. In the third book, Portland Pirates, Ghosts and Angels, Isabel sets out to unravel the mystery of a ghostly pirate ship wrecked off the coast of Portland Bill in 1691. The fouth Portland Chronicle is called The Island Giant.
How can we contact you?
I would love to hear from you. I am writing a blog at carolhunt.blogspot.com and have two Facebook pages (one for Carol Hunt and one for The Portland Sea Dragon). You can also contact me via Roving Press at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will be sharing my writing experience with young people, giving talks and workshops to schools, youth groups and other local organisations.
About the Illustrator
|Domini Deane is a self-taught artist, who has been creating magical worlds and creatures since she could pick up a crayon. Born in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, she now lives and works in Poole, Dorset. Her favourite medium is watercolour with a pinch of fairy dust, and her greatest inspiration is a blank piece of paper.|
This was her first book commission. “I really enjoyed working with Carol and Roving Press, and I am very happy with the result. I think we captured the mood and setting of the story. I loved visiting Portland. Many of the buildings on the map are inspired by the old houses in Weston.
See more of Domini's work at www.dominideane.com.
Please CLICK HERE for ordering details.
| Dorset Echo 27 Oct 09 - Giant Aquatic Dinosaur found on Jurassic Coast |
CLICK HERE to read the Dorset Echo’s feature on a giant sea dinosaur skull found in Weymouth Bay.
Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society - A 'Sea Dragon' for Dorset County Museum
CLICK HERE to read Newsletter 83, Winter 2009
The Veasta, Chesil Beach Sea Monster
Veasta, a 12 ft tall creature with the head of a crested seahorse and the torso of a fish has made occasional appearances off the shores of Portland over the last five centuries, and most recently in 1995 and on the solar eclipse in 1999.
CLICK HERE for a more detailed account by M.J. Ball.
The Spirit of Portland
For a fascinating look at Portland's heritage and folklore, including mermaids, witches and sea monsters, see our other title The Spirit of Portland.