BfK 10 – 14 Middle/Secondary

night through the severest of storms to try to find Eli’s mother and when all seems lost it is Paddle Boy(aka Kenny) who helps her to save the day. This book moved me to tears on

several occasions and the power of its message is undeniable. Hollingsworth substantiates this by offering an introduction which explains how she first became aware of modern slavery and also ends the book with Nadia’s prizewinning entry in the Junior Journalists Contest, telling the story of Eli’s plight. In addition, there are contact numbers and names of organisations who can offer help and advice. The Invisible Boy would be an absolutely invaluable addition to any school library and would provide a superlative jumping-off point for further study of this contemporary malaise. VR

The Invisible Boy HHHHH

Alyssa Hollingsworth, ill. Deborah Lee, Piccadilly, 306pp, 978-1-848-12799-9, £6.99 pbk.

This tremendous book walks the fine line between didacticsm and entertainment with absolute precision, illuminating the

issue of modern

slavery with urgency and clarity. 13 year old Nadia Quick’s only ambition is to be a reporter and when her teacher asks her to write an article for entry into the

Junior Journalists Contest

her news antennae are on full alert. A lover of Marvel comic heroes, she had already styled herself on Lois Lane and when she spotted the son of a new family on the street smashing one of her family’s canoe paddles against a tree she knew she had found her arch- villain, and named him Paddle Boy. Thereafter, she put a negative spin on all his activities in order to prove to herself that he fitted the mould she had cast him into. Similarly, when a mysterious boy-Eli-rescues her beloved dog from drowning in a flooded stream then vanishes without trace she gives him the title of Invisible Boy and dubs him a superhero. The irony of his Nadia-given identity is made clear later in the book when Nadia realises that he is a victim of modern slavery and here is where the truth of her imagined story really lies.As events progress and she spots small but initially puzzling clues it

is Paddle Boy who proves

himself to be her ally and assists her in securing Eli’s freedom. Each chapter of the book begins with a beautifully drawn facsimile of a page from a Marvel


summarising some elements of the story to come and leaving others to be discovered. The burgeoning friendship between the three children is both touching and believable and tension

is masterfully

Nadia and a bruised, battered and severely malnourished Eli cycle

built when all

an enigmatic note saying it is for SF to keep until he is back. Along with her best friend Keira, Flick tracks down 5 different people Jack knows with the initial SF. In the process she finds out many hidden sides to her brother and realises he is not at all the person she thought he was, in fact, he is even more remarkable! Flick follows her nose and discovers the mystery is closer to home than she realised. Jack is found – he knew his little sister would find out where he was! And in a neat parallel twist there is

also a story within a story as Flick has a secret of her own – she is writing a Victorian mystery whose heroine shares several similar characteristics to her brother.

She has never admitted to

Jack she wants to be a writer. It is her story that is chosen by the class to enter a national competition for young writers and the family are all together to share her surprise when she wins her category.

This is a richly satisfying and

reflective read. The warmth and the strength of the bond between siblings is gradually revealed along with a

deeper knowledge and

understanding of the family dynamic and how their new knowledge brings them even closer together.

It is also

about friendship and determination and how important it is to be true to yourself and live life to the full. A rewarding and special book. JC

How Jack Lost Time HHHH

Stéphanie Lapointe, ill. Delphie Côté-LaCroix, Greystone Kids Books, 100pp. 978 1 7716 4757 1, £14.99 hbk

The Key to Finding Jack HHHHH

Ewa Jozefkowicz, Zephyr, 249pp, 978 17895 43568, £12.99 hbk

An unusual take on the detective genre that is just a as much about family relationships as solving a mystery. Flick has always idolised


older brother Jack and loves to solve the riddles he tells her. He even nicknames her Sergeant Flick. Jack has haemophilia but that has never got in the way of his life. He has a reputation as a practical joker and doesn’t always see eye to eye with their father, a top lawyer, who expects Jack to follow in his footsteps. Flick is apprehensive when Jack sets off traveling in Peru in his gap year as she realises her relationship with him will change as he will be off to university when he returns. Then

the unthinkable happens

and Jack is reported missing in the aftermath

of a huge earthquake

in Peru. Wanting to do something practical to help find Jack, Flick searches for clues he might have left behind. She discovers Jack’s precious necklace he always wore with a tiny golden key together with

28 Books for Keeps No.244 September 2020

In this tale of decisions and their consequences, we first meet captain Jack as a solitary soul who spends his entire life aboard his boat, lacking for nothing save human company. He has his plants, his books and a pipe for

night-time loneliness.It wasn’t

always thus however. Time was Jack was not the crazy captain who throws back into the sea any fish that get caught in his nets. Crazy? Far from it. Jack is consumed by grief and on that account similarly consumed with a quest: to find the ancient whale that years ago, had swallowed his son Julos when the father and son were at sea together. Now Jack has turned into a ‘mean, dark’ angry man who resolved not to return home to his wife until he’s found that whale. Eventually he does


This dark tale is beautifully told in a lyrical style (it was translated from the original French by Arielle Aaronson) and illustrated in sombre shades mainly of grey and brown, in a spare fashion that befits the nature of the telling. JB

When Life Gives You Mangos HHHH

Kereen Getten, Pushkin Children’s, 224pp, 978 1 78269 264 5, £7.99 pbk

Clara lives in the small community of Sycamore Hill, overlooking a fishing village. Her native island seems very like Jamaica, where Kereen Getten’s introductory note tells us she grew up. Twelve-year-old Clara says that nothing ever happens on Sycamore Hill, so we can be sure that’s not going to last much longer. Her best friend is Gaynah, with

whom she falls in and out; currently, she’s more out than in. Some days, Clara plays games the Hill children invented and have always played with a few friends she’s grown up with. More often, she and Gaynah spend time together in their secret places around the Hill. Her hard-working Mama is loving in a strict kind of a way, while her Papa is a fisherman and one of the unofficial leaders of the community. Higher up the Hill in a large old house, Clara’s mysterious uncle lives alone. Pastor Brown calls him a witch-doctor; and her parents forbid her to visit him. We might guess she will before long. Readers might also wonder about


object of his search and soon plunges straight into its mouth, and deep into its belly where sits, looking sad and dirty, his son. A son who at first fails to recognise his father on account of his changed countenance, but does as Jack makes to leave. Julos calls out to him and in due course, the two climb out of the whale and sail back to shore. There however, more grief awaits …

another mystery. For some reason, Clara has no memory of what happened when she was playing in the sea last year. Something has left her terrified of the water, though her friends try to help her with that. Life on the Hill begins to change when Rudy and her mother arrive for a visit from London, staying with irritable old Ms Gee. Rudy’s about Clara’s age and her playful imagination knows no limits; Clara loves the new freedoms of her company. Even so, the tranquil, local pace of things nudges along until well into the second half of the book. Then, at the suggestion of Pastor Brown and without any warning to Clara, Mama and Papa drive her into town to an appointment with a bishop to see if he can help with whatever it is that’s troubling her. He can’t – he doesn’t listen and the visit does more harm than good. Papa sees it’s down to him to spend time helping his own daughter and before long, partly through an encounter with that mysterious uncle, the truths come tumbling onto the page. Even the weather turns stormy to mirror the revelations. No spoilers here, but startled readers may feel – as I did – that at this point they need to re-read what’s gone before to check for clues we must surely have missed. Here and there, Getten does plant some submerged hints, though hardly enough to prepare us for the shock

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