School Ship Tobermory by Alexander McCall Smith and Iain McIntosh

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School Ship Tobermory by Alexander McCall Smith and Iain McIntosh

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: A reinvented school story - fun, exciting, and educational without you even realising it!
Buy? yes Borrow? yes
Pages: 224 Date: October 2015
Publisher: Birlinn Ltd
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781780273334

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I would read anything that Alexander McCall Smith wrote, but when he starts a new series I admit I do hesitate, just slightly, as I open the book for the first time. Will it be as good as his other stories? Will I love the characters just as much? This time he has reinvented the boarding school story, because who doesn't love a good adventure with children separated from their parents? This school is a boarding school with a very big difference however because it's on a boat! This isn't just any old boat, of course, but a proper sailing ship, and whilst aboard the children must learn how to handle her.

Ben and Fee, twins, have been living, most of the time, with their parents, helping in their submarine with their scientific research or staying on land with their auntie. Now, however, the time has come for them to join the pupils of the school ship Tobermory. They are a little nervous, as you'd expect, but they soon settle into their new life on board. Life isn't all plain sailing, for what would life be without a little adventure now and then? There are the usual villains to contend with, because we all know how mean school children can be, and then there is some intrigue surrounding another boat that appears to be carrying a film crew but they are all behaving rather suspiciously.

There's a large crew of characters who are introduced well throughout the story and I expect we will get to know them better as the series goes along. They have their quirks, as you'd expect, though Ben and Fee were, for me, just ever so slightly too normal! (In spite of having grown up on a submarine!) I didn't love them as much as I usually love the leading characters in an AMS story, but I did enjoy the variety of people they meet through the book, and I am keen to read more of the adventures on board.

There are lovely illustrations throughout the book, introducing us to characters or, in some cases, giving us a panel of drawings, as in a graphic novel, that portray a part of the story. The text is challenging enough to engage a confident reader, but not so difficult that a keen younger reader couldn't give it a go. I liked the detail regarding life on board a ship, and I certainly picked up one or two facts as I read, though we are told in the gentlest of ways so you never feel like you're having a lesson yourself!

I enjoyed the mysterious adventure, and I felt that the suspense was well done, with enough intrigue and not too much terror! I liked how the children were portrayed, with not all of them feeling brave and bold. I also rather enjoyed the naughty children in the book, as it's always good to have someone to hate, especially when they get away with their crimes and so are left to be annoying again in another story! The start of the story felt a little slow to me, but there are a lot of ideas to get used to, and after many happy years of reading and re-reading about Hogwarts, it did take some time to readjust to a very different kind of school! I wondered if it would feel like a gimic, that this is a floating boarding school, but of course AMS is so knowledgeable about his chosen location that after just a few pages you find yourself accepting it as completely normal! I'm looking forward to seeing where the ship lays anchor next, and what adventures the children will next enjoy.

Further reading suggestion: Children (and their grown ups!) might also enjoy this story Precious and the Zebra Necklace by Alexander McCall Smith or for more sea-faring adventures try Mistress of the Storm by Melanie Welsh.

Buy School Ship Tobermory by Alexander McCall Smith and Iain McIntosh at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy School Ship Tobermory by Alexander McCall Smith and Iain McIntosh at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy School Ship Tobermory by Alexander McCall Smith and Iain McIntosh at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy School Ship Tobermory by Alexander McCall Smith and Iain McIntosh at Amazon.com.


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