The Fire Within Booktalk
It certainly wasn't like the last room David had rented. All it had had were spiders and the occasional mouse. This room came with an extremely talkative girl, a large cat, and dragons. Dragons that lived in every room of the house. Dragons that were warm when he picked them up, or that looked at him with disturbingly alert expressions in their eyes. His landlady Liz Pennykettle made them to sell at the market and at craft fairs. She and her daughter Lucy were Pennykettle Pots and Crafts.
But dragons weren't the only animal that was important in the Pennykettle household. Squirrels were as well, and specifically the ones that had lived in the big old oak tree before it was chopped down. Those were the squirrels that Lucy had named and had watched every day. After the tree was cut down, they'd all left, all but Conker, Lucy's favorite. He was a grey squirrel with one blind eye, and he had an enemy — Mr. Bacon, who lived next door — was determined to trap him and kill him. But Lucy was just as determined to save him.
But many things happened before they could figure out how to save Conker. Some of those things had to do with dragons, particularly one special dragon, David's dragon, the one Liz made for him as a housewarming gift. It had all the Pennykettle touches — spiky wings, big flat feet, green scales with turquoise highlights, and his eyes had a cheery, helpful look. It sat up on its thick curved tail, a pencil clenched in one front claw, as he bit the end of it, deep in thought. He carried a notepad in his other claw. He was a storytelling dragon, and David named him Gadzooks. He sat on the windowsill in David's room, looking out onto the garden.
A few weeks after David got Gadzooks, Lucy was about to turn eleven. David didn't have any money for a nice gift, so he decided to write the squirrel story that Lucy had been pestering him for weeks to write. By now, David was so used to having dragons around, especially Gadzooks, that he didn't think anything of talking to him. "What do you think? We need a plot, an angle, I suppose." He closed his eyes to think and suddenly saw Gadzooks take his pencil out of his mouth and begin to write on his notepad: "Nutbeast."
And with that, the collaboration of boy and dragon began, and the tale of Snigger and the Nutbeast began to unfold.