The year is 1832 and young Nico Cloud leads a solitary existence at her family home, stuck in her room with her embroidery, longing for more books and desperately wanting a friend. She dreams of being an explorer and scientist like her Aunt Ruth but her parents are of the firm belief that such things aren’t for girls and that Nico should focus on growing up to be a good housewife.
When Nico accidentally stows away on a ship she finds herself on the voyage of a lifetime. Accompanying a famous scientist who is on a quest for new discoveries, Nico suddenly finds that her knowledge and passion is valued. And everything she has learnt from her books will prove invaluable if the crew are going to find some mythical seeds and make a real difference to the world…
Amy Raphael’s latest story is a fantastic, fast-paced read that takes the reader from the English coast to the island of Sicily. The exciting ocean adventure is full of the thrills and spills of life at sea as it follows the close knit crew aboard the Anthos as they journey to find the fossilised seeds of the mythical Tree of Hope that have the power to change the world, or make some men in London incredibly rich, depending on who discovers them first.
The journey is far from plain sailing and the crew battle storms and choppy seas and must overcome pirates, thieves and kidnappings. Leading the crew is the fearless and empowering Dr. Hamilton, better known to Nico as Aunt Ruth. However, due to social norms and expectations Aunt Ruth disguises herself as a man so she is able to go about her work undisturbed - such a thing is sure to provoke much discussion and debate from young readers.
Life abroad Anthos is a stark contrast to Nico’s home life and once she has found her sea legs, she quickly finds herself as one of the crew with her own responsibilities. Living the life she has dreamed of, Nico is a wonderful inspiration, especially for young girls, with her qualities of bravery, loyalty and following your dreams and is a sharp reminder that girls can do anything despite what the men might say and think. Taking inspiration from her Aunt, she is determined to become a scientist and to influence the world of paleobotany, and she wants to do it dressed like a woman and not having to conduct her research in a dusty old shed outside of the university.
I strongly recommend you hop on board the Anthos in 2022 where knowledgeable stowaways are more than welcome. A beautifully written story full of girl-power and a wonderful desire to change the world for the better. ‘Fossils are the past but seeds are the future.’
With huge thanks to Hachette and Orion Children’s Books for the copy I received in exchange for an honest review.
Recommended for 9+.