“Williams throws in crashes and bangs and broken windows to delight children with a yen for destruction.”



This book is set at the end of the nineteenth century simple because David Wallace wanted to get in orphans and Queen Victoria. Otherwise quite possibly it might have done duty as a rerun of Jurassic Park with a revived Woolly Mammoth instead of a dinosaur.

Elsie the heroine escaped from a dirty orphanage where the inmates are given maggot baths and whacks on the bottom instead of Christmas presents to take refuge in the Natural History Museum. There she is determined to meet a woolly mammoth who has been brought frozen in ice from the Arctic with the help of a sticky fingered gang of kids, a cleaning lady and a short private called Titch, among others.

Williams throws in crashes and bangs and broken windows to delight children with a yen for destruction. Not to mention irreverent ‘bottom burps’ or gas bombs as he calls it as the ultimate secret weapon. At one level the book is about conservation and the fact that wild creatures belong in the wilds and not in glass cages. There are a plethora of interesting characters like Lady Buckshot, the Mad Professor who is determined to equal Newton and Darwin but finds himself frustrated so he hides in a secret room waiting for his opportunity which comes in the shape of Woolly the Mammoth and Elsie.

Set in the modern world it would have a different flavour and Queen Victoria and her Munshi would not be part of the story, nor would Nelson’s Victory. However Lady Buckshot would probably have toted a maxim or a Gatling and not a machine gun – odd because Williams has handy footnotes – and she is very much part of a type of hunter who stalks the 20th and 21st centuries.

Possibly less whoops and sound words and more paragraphs would have been nice but then Williams is aiming at a certain type of child who would adore the decibel level.


Reviewed by:

Anjana Basu

Added 5th April 2019

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Anjana Basu