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This issue’s cover illustration is from Crowns and Codebreakers (The Marsh Road Mysteries) by Elen Caldecott. The illustration is by Nathan Reed. Thanks to Bloomsbury Children’s Books for their help with this July cover.
Jack is a twelve-year old genius with an IQ of 170. While his parents are arguing in a petrol station shop, their car is hijacked, with Jack in the back. From this gripping opening to the finale of the novel there is non-stop action as Jack and the car-jacker, Ross, travel from Northumberland to London via Leeds and Rotherham. There’s a nod to the plot of The Thirty-Nine Steps, with Jack and Ross running across countryside, hiding in a remote cottage, travelling by train and taking part in a quiz show. There’s also an enjoyable cameo role for a hard-working librarian in Kings Cross, staying late to prepare for her Chatterbooks reading club!
Jack is a superb hero; resourceful, clever and brave. He discovers his true potential, which is far more than just having a good brain. The relationship which develops between him and Ross is heart-warming, and gives the ending a real pathos. Ali Sparkes writes with great humour, particularly when showing up Jack’s mother, Leonie, who suffocates Jack with a demanding home-school schedule and a restrictive diet. The theme of nurturing a child prodigy is interesting, especially as this is reflected in the current Channel 4 Child Genius programme. By the end of the novel Jack understands himself a lot better and has the confidence to assert himself, with positive results. A thoroughly enjoyable and satisfying adventure story.