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First up, I read two of the books, very cold adventures! Here's what I think of them.

'Lark' by Anthony McGowan; An adventure set in the Yorkshire Moors based on two characters from his last book, 'Rook'. To be honest, it probably does help if you have read 'Rook', but it's not necessary; the strength of the bond between Nicky and his older brother, who has special needs, is still very strong, and central to the books success. Not giving too much away here, far from home on the North Yorkshire Moors when a blizzard blows up out of the blue, no phone signal and not much of a map... The book follows their adventure, rammed with drama and comedy at times, and it certainly packs a huge emotional punch at the end.

'Nowhere on Earth' by Nick Lake: Another adventure, this time set in a very cold Alaska. Emily and her brother, Aiden, are on the run (read it to find out the reasons). They stowaway on a small postal delivery plane, but it crashes into the side of a mountain. When the 'rescuers' appear, things start to get really dangerous. I love the action sections of the book which are really dealt with well: very difficult to do in writing. Lane foreshadows the twist not too subtly; I got it: wonder if you will. For me, the ending of the book kind of fizzled out; it really didn't deliver the emotional punch of 'Lark', but see what you think. I think a good edit on the last few chapters would have made for a more successful book overall; however, a very enjoyable and tense adventure read nonetheless.

And now I've finished this one- much hotter: the Canaries and Africa!

'Girl, Boy, Sea' by Chris Vick: Again, a good adventure story suitable for all year groups. For just over the first hundred pages, I thought that this was going to be my favourite: a dramatic shipwreck, a boy alone at sea, a miraculous meeting, hardship, ingenuity and some beautifully written imagery of the ocean and the sky. However, then the book began to lose me. I suppose the set-up was very Morpurgo-like: a sort of 'Kensuke's Kingdom', but all at sea. However, I never really got the necessary empathy for the central character and narrator, Bill, which Morpurgo creates so effortlessly, and so I found that I wasn't really invested emotionally in what could be described as the second and third parts of the adventure, but maybe you would disagree; there is certainly still plenty of action and drama. For me, as in 'Nowhere on Earth', the ending did fizzle out a bit. I think a more creative, non-linear approach to this section would have worked better; again, in my view, a good bit of editing required, but still an enjoyable read overall: just not a life-changer!

BY THE WAY, if you live in the Wingham area, I have personal copies of 'Lark' and 'Nowhere on Earth' if you would like me to pop one through your door. Just email me at and I'll see what I can do, confinement permitting. 

'Lampie' by Annet Schaap: Definitely my favourite so far. I'm a bit of a sucker for magic realism, and this book has a well-balanced dose of both. Lampie's life is tough. Her father, still in mourning for his wife, Lampie's mother, two years after her death, and struggling to come to terms with his disability, turns to drink and violence. Lampie is essentially his slave, fulfilling his role as lighthouse keeper and household chores- but the household is falling apart despite her best efforts, and the love she still feels for him. However, one stormy night, Lampie is unable to light the beacon and a ship is wrecked. Her and her father are cruelly punished. And then the magic, and the adventure for Lampie, begins. Great imagery, characterization and plot absolutely hooked me into this book. I really felt Lampie's trials and triumphs. My only disappointment came at the end- because it ended! This book is a translation from the Dutch, but it really doesn't feel it; you get a true sense of the author's authentic voice. A great read suitable for all year groups.

 'Voyages in the Underworld of Orpheus Black' by Marcus and Julian Sedgewick, illustrated by Alexis Deacon: A strange book. Not quite sure what to make of it, but I certainly had no problem finishing it, so that must say something. A brother is trying to rescue his older brother, lost in a bomb blast in London's Blitz, and the efforts to so this become increasingly strange and surreal. However, I'm not sure that the title, absolutely bursting with drama and adventure, really reflects the content of the book. For a start, most of it is set overground in a very recognizable WW2 London, and if you're expecting mythical monsters, well, there aren't any. This is a dual narrative switching between the diary and illustration of Harry, the younger brother, and the verse narrative of Orpheus, both tracking and leading Harry on his journey. The verse doesn't really work for me, and that becomes rather significant at the end of the book. The illustrations are impressive, really capturing the feel of the period. I think it is probably suitable for all year groups, but at the lower end a degree of reader maturity is required to deal with the complex narrative. It is an expensive book, but I have a school copy if you live in the Wingham/Littlebourne area and would like to read it. Just email me on

'Patron Saint of Nothing' by Randy Ribay: This book is in the vein of 'Saint Death' by Marcus Sedgewick which was shortlisted a couple of years back, and which I absolutely loved. This doesn't quite have the same impact, although I think it could have with some judicious editing, but is still a compelling, bleak, hopeful work looking hard at a very dark issue indeed: President Duterte's murderous regime in the Philippines. He claims it is a war on drugs, but it is a lawless butchering of drug users and dealers, and innocent people caught in the crossfire, and not a war on the causes of drug dealing and drug use. The book exposes the brutal outlook of the authorities as 17 year-old Jay flies to the Philippines to investigate the murder, in the war against drugs, of his cousin, Jun. His uncle, His uncle, Jun's father, is a police chief and a great supporter of the war even though it has taken his son. He ventures into the ghettos to seek the truth, and see the reality behind dug-use. The truth, when he does find it, is not straightforward, carrying plenty of emotional punches as it is revealed. As stated, I do think this book could have been stripped back a little bit, but I understand that Ribay wanted to create a great sense of the gulf between U.S. and Philippine societies, so the focus on the U.S. sections is understandable. Probably not for the younger years, but I think more mature Y8s and upwards could definitely engage with the characters, the situations, and find the read a great culturally broadening experience.






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Kent Catholic Schools’ Partnership is an exempt charity and a company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales under company registration number 08176019 at registered address Barham Court, Teston, Kent, ME18 5BZ.
St Anselm's Catholic School is a business name of Kent Catholic Schools’ Partnership.