Meg McKinlay, Bella and the Voyaging House, Fremantle Press, July 2021, 112 pp., RRP $12.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781760990695
Meg McKinlay is a prize-winning author, and this delightful little novel is a sequel to her successful Bella and the Wandering House (2015). Bella, as those who read the first novel will know, now lives in a house made from a boat. At night her house goes back to the sea, but always returns everyone safely to their seaside block by the morning. The house has legs as well as its boat-timbers. It has ears too, because it follows Bella’s commands (at least until the trouble starts in this novel).
The house is the invention of her grandfather, who happens to be her favourite person in the whole world. This time the events revolve around her grandfather’s birthday, and Bella’s desire to find for him the best possible present. This will involve marooning her family on the boat (house) out at sea, discovering the boat’s ability to become a submarine, then a rescue by the most unusual means engineered by Bella’s grandfather, and an ending that is both surprising and delightful.
This is an excellent addition to the ‘Bella’ series, and a great introduction to longer storytelling for readers just starting out on reading bigger books. Recommended for readers six to ten. Good for reading aloud too if you are up for the challenge of dramatising lots of dialogue.
Reviewed by Kevin Brophy