In common with Jess Butterworth’s other work, the setting of her latest story is beautifully described, richly detailed and contributes significantly to the plot. Swimming Against the Storm takes place in the swamps of Louisiana, swiftly immersing readers in the mysterious and unwelcoming environment.
Two sisters, Eliza and Avery, have spent their lives in a small fishing village on the edge of the swamps and have grown up with a deep affection for their home. They seem destined to follow in their parents’ footsteps as ‘shrimpers’, until they learn that water levels are rising to dangerously high levels around the village. Their only option is to fight to save the land they care about and, along with two of their closest friends, they head off in search of the mythical loup-garou, a creature that is rumoured to live deep in the swamps. If, somehow, they can find and capture one, then the government will be forced to intervene and help the local community protect the environment from the impending catastrophe.
Although the book begins as a relatively low-key adventure, the stakes are soon raised when the children realise the demanding nature of the task ahead of them. Tension levels increase rapidly as they travel into the swamp, moving further and further away from the safety of their village. Relationships are tested as challenges are faced and overcome, but the strong feeling of genuine love that exists between the sisters is absolutely central to the writing. The key message about the importance of protecting the natural environment resonates strongly throughout and will be picked up by young readers. In addition, the political aspect of the story is subtly done and adds extra depth when reading. As I progressed through the book, I became totally immersed in the world created by the author and, after finishing, enjoyed spending time learning more about life in the Louisiana swamps.
Swimming Against the Storm is the kind of gripping adventure that will appeal to fans of Lauren St John. It is perfect for Years 5 and 6, and I recommend it highly. Jess Butterworth is building a strong back catalogue of children’s books and it is thrilling to see her fulfilling her enormous potential as a writer.