I picked up this book, because I so enjoyed Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell. However, if you’re looking for a book like Rooftoppers, you might be disappointed. This book is utterly unique. Yes, there’s still an orphan, but this is an orphan who grew up in Zimbabwe. And just wait till she arrives in England!
Here’s the synopsis (from Amazon):
Even a life on the untamed plains of Africa can’t prepare Wilhelmina for the wilds of an English boarding school in this lovely and lyrical novel from the author of Rooftoppers, which Booklist called “a glorious adventure.” Wilhelmina Silver’s world is golden. Living half-wild on an African farm with her horse, her monkey, and her best friend, every day is beautiful. But when her home is sold and Will is sent away to boarding school in England, the world becomes impossibly difficult. Lions and hyenas are nothing compared to packs of vicious schoolgirls. Where can a girl run to in London? And will she have the courage to survive? From the author of the “witty, inventively poetic” Rooftoppers comes an utterly beautiful story that’s sure to be treasured.
What I loved:
1. An incredible protagonist with a huge heart: What I loved about this protagonist is that she’s not fake (a major theme in the book), she’s genuine, and she’s incredibly unique.
2. A protagonist who solves her problems by focusing on how much her family loved her: I loved how Will kept reminding herself of her father’s and the captain’s words: “Come on, chook.” “Courage, hey.” Thinking of her dad helped her be brave and solve her problems in a lot of interesting ways.
3. Lyrical writing. Like Rooftoppers, the writing is interesting and unexpected. Here’s one example: “The rain began to fall in muddy curtains, soaking her hair, but the warmth from the fries was like a kiss. Potatoes, Will reckoned, solved a lot of problems.”
4. Interesting use of POV. I have to admit that at times I wasn’t sure if I liked how POV was handled. It weaves in and out from omniscient to close 3rd, to close 3rd of completely different characters. I know my writing teachers would be slashing this with a red pen. But I eventually got used to it and I think it worked for this novel. It gave it a somewhat disorientating feel, which fit how I felt in the African sections and how Will felt in the English sections.
5. Themes and repetitions: I noticed this, because this is something I’m working on in my own writing. Rundell does a wonderful job of developing her themes through purposeful repetition, whether it’s what Will's dad says to her, the emphasis on fake vs. real, and family and love. I love how these themes worked together.
6. Resolution: I won’t give anything away, but I’m now convinced that while I fall in love with a lot of beginnings, it’s more rare for me to truly love the ending of the book. Cartwheeling is going to stick with me, because of the way Will comes to terms with her problems at the end. It’s a fitting, realistic, and hopeful end. The best kind.
I’ve read other books set in Africa, but none had this magical quality. Rundell is certainly and author to watch.
Parental/Teacher Warning: A minor swear word is used throughout for effect. Use your discretion when reading aloud.
Have you read any magical adventures lately?
*** I’m sad to say that this will be my last post for a little while. I’ve decided to put this blog on hiatus until I’ve finished some of my writing goals, namely finishing revisions on my MG and getting it ready to submit. I've had a hard time balancing writing and blogging this year, and I think I need to step back so I can focus on my family and writing for a little while. Thank you for supporting my blog. Your insights and enthusiasm for writing and reading always inspire me!
To check out more Marvelous Middle Grade suggestions, check out Shannon Messenger's blog.