A Storm of Strawberries by Jo Cotterill

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A Storm of Strawberries by Jo Cotterill

Buy A Storm of Strawberries by Jo Cotterill at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: A lovely, warm story about being different, in many different ways.
Buy? yes Borrow? yes
Pages: 240 Date: June 2016
Publisher: Piccadilly Press
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781848126169

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Darby lives on a strawberry farm with her mum, big sister, step dad and step brother. She loves music, dancing, chocolate egg hunts and her big sister Kaydee. She is warm and funny, and she has Down's syndrome. The story looks at the events of one weekend in Darby's life when the farm is threatened by a tornado, and her family is threatened by the revelation of a closely-guarded secret.

I read, and adored, Jo Cotterill's story A Library of Lemons so I was very much looking forward to this book. Once again, she delves into some complex issues, but writes them in an extremely accessible way. The main character, and narrator to the story, has Down's syndrome, and she has been very thoughtfully and carefully imagined. Darby is wonderfully direct, open and honest. I liked her immediately, and I liked how having Down's syndrome is just presented as a fact, rather than a big deal that needs a lot of explanation. Her interactions with her family are both funny and moving, and they reflect the usual sibling affections and rivalries, jealousies and love. She is especially close to her big sister, Kaydee, and much of the story revolves around Kaydee's best friend Lissa being in their house for a sleepover. Darby feels that Lissa doesn't like her, and she is immensely jealous of all the time they're spending together.

The strawberry farm is at great risk during the tornado, and so Darby's parents are rushing around trying to protect their livelihood which manages to both create an undercurrent of tension throughout the story, but also gives Darby more freedom since she is left to her own devices much of the time whilst they're fixing things around the farm. This tension carries over into the family aspects of the story, and issues around secrecy, homosexuality and family conflict are handled deftly. I really liked that a storyline about coming out that might more usually be found in a young adult novel is, here, beautifully and very simply written. It is easy to understand what's happening, and seeing everything from Darby's point of view adds a level of perception that I particularly enjoyed.

I struggled a little with the tornado. I know we do get them here in the UK, but I feel that tornadoes in my head are associated with America, and so each time it was mentioned I was jolted slightly as I began to question whether the story was set in the UK or America, pondering the names Darby and Kaydee (which also sound very American) but everyone sounded very British! It's silly, I know, but I just felt it kept interrupting the story, this ponderance of where on earth everything was happening. I think because of this I didn't feel quite the same deep emotional attachment as I had with A Library of Lemons, but this is still a very engaging, and moving, story.

The resolution in the story was satisfying, and I enjoyed how very real the characters were, including the imperfect mother who says the wrong things without quite meaning to, and that it is Darby who manages to pull everyone back together and fix the storm at the heart of her own family. I also loved that it is about being different, in many different ways, and about acceptance and understanding in everyday life, as well as across wider issues. This is a fast and easy read, aimed probably at children around 8-12, that delves deeper than many books for this age group, and it is written in a sensitively and with a great deal of heart.

Further reading suggestion: If you haven't read it yet, you should definitely take a look at A Library of Lemons by Jo Cotterill, You might also enjoy Not My Fault by Cath Howe.

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Buy A Storm of Strawberries by Jo Cotterill at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Storm of Strawberries by Jo Cotterill at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy A Storm of Strawberries by Jo Cotterill at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Storm of Strawberries by Jo Cotterill at Amazon.com.


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