Voyage of the Sparrowhawk by Natasha Farrant

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Voyage of the Sparrowhawk by Natasha Farrant

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: Engaging and exciting, this is a wonderful adventure story about two friends and their determination to never give up their last, tiny glimpses of hope.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 368 Date: September 2020
Publisher: Faber & Faber
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0571348763

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Set in England in the aftermath of World War One, this is the story of two children, Lotti and Ben, who have lost everyone they love, but don't want to let go of their last, tiny glimpses of hope. Ben is living on a narrowboat on the canal, lying to the police about his brother's imminent return from the battlefields to take care of him. Lotti, meanwhile, has been expelled from school and is back at home; it's a beautiful house that belongs to her but that her terrible Aunt and Uncle currently have guardianship for. The day Lotti meets Ben (the day she steals a dog!) is the beginning of a deep, and powerful friendship. It sees them become each other's family, and undertake a perilous trip to France, in the boat, to try to find out the truth of the people they both love.

This is a real action and adventure story, with a taste of Enid Blyton to it. The start is a lovely set-up to the story, introducing first the characters and then their friendship, as it slowly builds and grows. Then, the pace increases as they start their journey and find that they are being tracked by the local policeman, and other grown-ups who want to find them, as well as facing stormy weather, border guards, pregnant dogs and more! They meet many other characters along the way, and their stories are interesting and intriguing too, but it is Lotti and Ben who remain the focus, and who display great courage, resilience and determination.

Lotti and Ben are quite different as characters, and I liked that they complimented each other because of this. They have to work together, and they both support each other throughout the journey. Their autonomy is appealing too, so having their own boat and just sailing it to France is incredibly exciting to read about! (For nervous grown-ups, they do end up having adult help along the way!) Lotti is clever, but a bit of a firecracker, making decisions on the fly. Ben is calmer, and more thoughtful. They each have a dog, too, because a good children's adventure story is always better with a dog. Ben's dog has been with him for some time, but Lotti's dog is one she steals - or rescues, depending on how you look at it - and then has to hide from her Aunt and Uncle!

The baddies in the story are well drawn too. The mean Aunt and Uncle are really as dreadful as you need them to be. I also really liked the Policeman who relentlessly pursues the children. Without giving away spoilers, he is really just diligently doing his job, and his part in the story is enjoyable to read. The children also befriend a young woman, Clara, who has a mysterious boyfriend who she is waiting for, and there's a girl living by one of the locks who helps them get out of a spot of trouble, as well as two adult brothers, Jim and Frank, without whom the children wouldn't have made it past the first stretch of their journey. I would have quite happily have read more about Clara and her story, as well as Jim and Frank. They are interesting characters in their own right, and so they fit nicely into the book with what feels like a well-rounded back story of their own.

I really enjoyed this book. It's exciting to read, you really care about the characters, and it's a tale of how you can always find, and make, your own family if you need to. It's also a beautiful story of hope, and I feel we can never have too many of those.

Further reading: You might also enjoy this children's adventure story too The Pear Affair by Judith Eagle. We also have a review of Farrant's The Children of Castle Rock.

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