Sophie Kirtley’s debut is a wonderful adventure full of courage, heart and learning about the importance of family.
Charlie Merriam has longed for a baby sister or brother but when his wish arrives on the eve of his 12th birthday his world comes crumbling down. His baby brother is born with a life-threatening heart condition and is clinging to life, and what Charlie had envisaged as being the most wonderful of moments is nothing like he imagined. Struggling to cope with the situation he runs away to his sanctuary, Mandel Forest.
Whilst seeking refugee in the forest he spots a boy lying in the river and he too is clinging on to life. Knowing that the boy needs help, Charlie decides to head back to the place he has just ran away from, the hospital. But the forest has changed and is nothing like he remembers it. He has somehow slipped back into the Stone Age and the boy lying in the river is from the Stone Age too. Charlie is lost, frightened, alone and is far from home…
This thrilling adventure sees two children from different periods in history collide and embark on a life-changing adventure of self-discovery that ultimately sees them face their fears as they navigate the complexities and harsh realities of life. Whilst they are from two very different periods in time they are united by their shared grief as they are both struggling to cope with events within their families that are just too big to deal with. The two have a rocky start and have to deal with issues of mistrust and uncertainty. But as the two learn to trust each other a wonderful friendship blossoms and eventually the boys finally open up to each other and share their tales of heartbreak.
There is excitement, peril, dangerous beasts and an angry caveman, and Kirtley’s writing has the reader racing through the pages. The short and pacy chapters come quick and fast and readers will find themselves always wanting to read just one more.
Kirtley includes some very big issues and emotions in her narrative and she handles these with care and sensitivity. The read is very much an emotional rollercoaster as Charlie and Harby experience highs and lows and both feel the extreme emotions of happiness and sadness. Unfortunately, children are often exposed to trauma and life-changing events that are way beyond their young years and Kirtley explores the reaction to adversity and the challenges that life throws up. What Kirtley shows the reader is that no challenge is too big to deal with and that we can all face our fears with the support of family and friends.
Her vivid descriptions bring the forest to life and she immerses the reader in the the wilderness and wild of the Stone Age. This is a great text to read for any children learning about the Stone Age at school or who just want to know more about this important period in history.
A super debut read and I very much look forward to Sophie Kirtely’s next offering.
Recommended for 8+.