Values: Love, Hope, Determination, Courage.
It has to be firstly said that this book blew me away and I devoured it in a day or two. I was lucky enough to be gifted it as a Secret Santa present from Reading Rocks and I was thrilled to receive it!
Since receiving it, this book has won the Costa Book Award 2020 prize, and I am not surprised at all. It is perfect for UKS2 – adventurous, gripping and a glimpse into life for children about a century ago. Set in 1919, the story follows Lotti and Ben – orphans – as they go on the run from the police and their guardians and cross the Channel in a bid to find Ben’s older brother, not seen since the war. The twist though, is that the two are on the run in a narrowboat named The Sparrowhawk. Not the fastest or most subtle of getaway vehicles, you may think, and this adds to the drama as the chase begins!
Natasha Farrant has made the characters plucky, likeable and believable. You cannot help but be drawn into their adventure and feel the whole range of emotions that they experience in this rollercoaster of a ride. What makes this book so special is that the characters have both experienced loss and hardship. They embark upon their journey with more than just an adventure in mind – both are searching for a sense of belonging and a family once more. The deep emotional level of this book contrasts beautifully with fast-paced action. There are lots of ways you could use this book as a way of introducing or discussing Values with your children and I have explored a couple of the ways here. As with any of my reviews, these are purely ideas and not exhaustive at all.
One of the first Values that sprang to mind was hope. At the start of the book, the future looks bleak for both Ben and Lotti. Life after the war for orphans would not have been rosy and yet Lotti and Ben never lose sight that life could be better. They are resilient and courageous in their bid to create a better life for themselves and a glimmer of hope shines through the whole book, even in their darkest moments. It would be great to discuss other stories where the protagonists display hope in the face of adversity as a good way of making connections between books. A few I can think of would be: Cogheart, Front Desk and The Last Wild.
Another Value you could easily discuss is love. There are so many forms of love shown in this book and discussing love in all its forms should not be overlooked in my opinion. The grief that both Lotti and Ben have experienced for their families drives them to fight for justice and to find that connection once more. The love that the pair show each other when they care for each other in their darkest times shows real friendship and empathy. Furthermore, the way the relationship that develops with their tutor is something special. This is a book that can highlight that love exists even in the darkest places and in the hardest times.
I would also talk about the Values of determination and courage. Lotti and Ben risk everything to take The Sparrowhawk across England and across the Channel. They seek advice, persevere, face their fears and learn new skills. This is a great book for demonstrating that the road to success is rarely linear and that the ups and downs help us to learn and adapt.
I most definitely haven’t done this book justice in this very short review. It is a VERY worthy winner of the Costa award in my opinion and if I had a Year 5 or 6 class at the moment, I would begin reading it to them straight away! You can buy yours at any bookshop, but it is good to support the independent bookshops if you can. Especially at the moment.
To explore books with the same Values on my blog, click on these links: