Castlecliff by Elizabeth Pulford

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Castlecliff by Elizabeth Pulford

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: A lovely short book about loneliness, illness, jealousy, bravery and growing up. It's a kitchen sink drama with the wonderful backdrop of a strong landscape and a dangerous sea.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 144 Date: July 2008
Publisher: Walker
ISBN: 1406314412

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Jamie's mother is getting married. Hurst is a nice guy an' all, but he's large, enthusiastic and loud, a bit like an exuberant dog. Jamie is lurching into adolescence and all this happiness and jollity predictably makes him feel pressured and sulky. To make matters worse, the honeymoon has been cancelled because Hurst's grandmother has died and the house, Castlecliff, needs renovating for sale. Jamie was supposed to be staying with his friend Ritchie, but they've had a row about new kid on the block Leroy, and so Jamie's having to go along with the newlyweds.

You don't need to know much about families to realise this isn't a recipe for a fun week. Jamie's adolescent dislocation is in full throttle - Hurst shouldn't be happy, Mum shouldn't keep cooking healthy food, Ritchie should only have one friend (Jamie, obviously) and why on earth would he even give a thought about Grancliff? She's dead for heaven's sakes. But someone at Castlecliff has it even worse than Jamie, and she hasn't even thought about puberty yet. Lani has cancer. She also has an unnerving tendency to hang around.

Castlecliff is all about Jamie's journey from centre of the world to part of it. All teenagers make this journey and it's perfectly expressed here, through Jamie's growing relationship with Lani. As the little girl slowly grows from pain in the neck to treasured friend, Jamie learns to look outside himself and understand that the world revolves without him, and that people's actions aren't purposely designed to have a (negative) effect on him. Castlecliff's secret is simply Jamie's secret - and the trick is for him to realise that it's everyone else's secret too.

It's beautifully told, with great simplicity. The writing is elegant and precise, but easy to read, and the little book is so absorbing, you reach the final page with a sigh of "Already? Surely not".

If they enjoyed Castlecliff, they might also enjoy Eggs by Jerry Spinelli about another friendship between an older and younger child, this time told from the point of view of the younger. It's a lovely little book which will appeal to a wide range of readers - boys and girls - from tweens to early teens. Recommended.

My thanks to the nice people at Walker for sending the book.

Buy Castlecliff by Elizabeth Pulford at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Castlecliff by Elizabeth Pulford at

Buy Castlecliff by Elizabeth Pulford at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Castlecliff by Elizabeth Pulford at


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