This brilliant addition to a familiar genre gives a vibrant new setting and atmosphere to the boarding school story, whilst also retaining many traditional elements. This school adventure story, based on the author’s own experience, is set in 1990s Nigeria and features Jumoke Afolabi, Jummy, who has won a place at the prestigious River School, the finest girls’ boarding school in Nigeria. Readers follow Jummy through her first term as she leaves her home and family for a new life at the school by the Shine-Shine River and a world of strict lessons, dorms, houses, schoolfriends, rivals, midnight feasts, sporting challenges, debates, and drama. Jummy’s only sadness is that her clever friend from home, Caro, cannot join her as her family cannot afford the school fees. When Caro does arrive, not as a pupil but as a maid to rich, spoilt new girl, Bolagi Oni, Jummy determines to question the status quo and fight for education for all. Jummy’s first term is an eventful one as she makes new friends, hatches a plot to help her old friend, foils a dishonest Matron and even escapes a crocodile.
This is a lively, joyous book with a likeable, empathetic central character who grows in confidence, understanding and self-awareness throughout. The African setting springs to life through evocative and colourful descriptions of sounds, scents, food, clothes, music and dancing and a rich use of language, all enhanced by Hanako Clulow’s bright, enticing front cover. Themes of fairness, equal opportunity and social justice are raised without overwhelming the story or detracting from the warmth, humour, and vitality of this very welcome new boarding school story.