An unusual, well-written story about a girl with psychic powers and a love of animals, who is also contending with being bullied and isolated at school, till a new pupil arrives who befriends her.
Set mostly in and around the Cotswolds, where I live, this book had extra appeal for me – I know well many of the places mentioned. I’ve never been to its other setting – South America – but the descriptions helped me picture that clearly too.
Relevance to Rio 2016 Olympics
The plot addresses many modern issues in a way that will capture the imagination of readers aged 11+ – the illegal trafficking of animals and drugs, the lot of street children in Rio, ecological issues such as the diminishing rainforest. As a class reader, this would certainly stimulate some interesting discussions, especially in the run-up to the Rio 2016 Olympics. The book would also be a good next step for girls who have gone through primary school reading books about kittens and puppies, witches and fairies, etc, but are looking for something more grown-up without entirely leaving those topics behind.
The story bowls along nicely with a lively pace and interesting relationships between well-drawn characters. The ending sets the reader up to expect a sequel, which is good, as young readers hunger for series!
Through An Adult’s Eyes
Reading this book as an adult, for me there were a few moments that didn’t quite ring true – not the obvious bits like psychic powers (happy to suspend my disbelief on that one), but more the practical health-and-safety considerations of taking kids out on a trip to Rio and some of the action that takes place there. But I don’t think those would deter young readers from getting stuck in to the adventure – only their teachers and parents whose first thought when organising such outings is Risk Assessment!
At the same time, I found it refreshing to read a story about single parent families in which not only are the parents and their children not in dire poverty (too many kids’ books automatically equate singledom with dire poverty and distress) but more importantly the children have a strong, positive affectionate relationships with their parents. Very cheering.
Overall, a good and thoughtful read for secondary school children with a special topicality with the imminence of the Rio Olympic Games.