Victorian London provides the backdrop for a rollicking historical heist that is packed with more twists and turns than the cobbled laneways of England’s capital.
Welcome to the Home for Unfortunate Girls - a school where disabled children and those deemed undesirable end up after being prised away from their families. Over the years, Cosima, also known as ‘number one’ on account of her being the first arrival at the home, has been joined by other ‘unfortunates’.
When not unpicking rope, Cos, Diya, Pearl and Mary bring a bit of mischief into their lives with their plucky heists that usually involve cakes, biscuits and other sweet goodies. The appearance of a mysterious, well-to-do stranger wanting to adopt the girls dramatically raises the stakes. Forget bakewell tarts and victoria sponge, the girls are going to steal a priceless jewel and expose a fraud. The heist of a lifetime may just bring Cos closer to something she wants more than anything…the truth about her parents…
Laura Noakes enters the world of middle-grade fiction with a sparkling debut that shines as brightly as the diamond that Cos and her ragtag bunch of friends plan to steal. Cosima Unfortunate Steals a Star is fast-paced adventurous fun of the absolute best kind that is brought to life through a generous smattering of incredible artwork by Flavia Sorrentino. If you’re after a heartwarming hug of a book that bursts with action and adventure, humour and heart, fantastic friendships and daring deeds, ingenuity and incredible inventions, exciting endeavours and lots of cake then look no further.
With wonderful disabled representation throughout, Laura has crafted a brilliant heist story and provides accessible historical commentary around the views of disabilities and the treatment of the disabled in Victorian Britain. The story is sure to thrill, the appalling attitudes towards the disabled is guaranteed to shock. Cosima and friends ensure disabled children and those who view themselves as different feel seen and their experiences recognised and valued whilst those without disabilities can begin to understand what the world is like even when it doesn’t match their own circumstances.
Cos is a new brand of heroine and one that the children’s literary world has been crying out for. Feisty, often brazen and always full of bravado, she is an absolute star who leads her charges with a fierce resolve and steely determination. And what charges they are; a master forger, an engineering whizz and an expert in breaking and entering. Together they are an awesome foursome who are capable of anything; smart, inventive, persistent, resilient and always underestimated by a society who simply deems them unworthy of existing within the mainstream.
A beautifully written and unique mystery adventure that will go down a storm in upper key stage two classrooms and would be a cracking alternative read to accompany a Victorian topic. Funny, thought-provoking and sure to ignite conversations around the treatment of those with disabilities in both the past and the present.
Cosima, the gang and the Home for Unfortunate Girls is an absolute triumph from an outstanding new talent. Laura, in keeping with the Victorian era I steal the words from Oliver Twist and say, ’Please Sir, I want some more.’
Recommended for 8+.
With huge thanks to Harper Collins for the copy I received in exchange for an honest review.