|Strong Winds Trilogy: The Salt-Stained Book by Julia Jones and Claudia Myatt|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: An adventure of the type which you'd despaired of ever finding again - with an elegant nod to Swallows and Amazons and a story which is bang-up-to-date and completely timeless. Strongly recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 272||Date: June 2011|
|Publisher: Golden Duck|
Donny and his mother left their bungalow on the outskirts of Leeds and headed off to Suffolk to meet Donny's great aunt. It was never going to be easy as Skye, Donny's mother, was deaf and just about mute. She and Donny communicated by signing and usually they managed quite well, but when Skye had a breakdown in a car park in Colchester, their camper van was towed away and fourteen-year-old Donny was taken into care. He couldn't understand why none of the officials would believe him – in fact, were they all that they seemed? And why will no one let him see his mother?
I picked up The Salt-Stained Book an hour before the men's singles final at Wimbledon was due to begin. Time enough, I thought, to get an idea of what the story was about and then I could come back to it later. But despite warnings that the match was 'about to start', 'first set over' etc I stayed with the book. I'm many times the target age, but it fulfils the test of a good book: whatever age you are it's still a good book. I was hooked before I was more than a few pages in.
You'll love Donny. He comes off the page and delights. Despite the fact that he'd never been near water he finds that he's an instinctive sailor the first time that he (accidentally!) gets in a dinghy. Much of the book is based on the Shotley Peninsula between the Rivers Orwell and Stour. You'll walk it, you'll sail it, you'll know it. Donny's put into care and he goes to live with the local vicar and her husband. They're glorious creations: you don't quite know whether to snigger or groan at them – they're just this side of caricature and wonderful to read.
My favourite character is Anna – another child in care. She's working through her resentment at her Maternal Rejection as Wendy, the vicar, explains. Anna's also wildly manipulative, intuitive and a brilliant friend when Donny most needs one. Donny's led a fairly sheltered life up until now and it's wonderful to watch him develop judgement about adults. They're not all good but there's a distinct difference between evil and stupidity and there are adults who can be relied on. Authority isn't always good and sometimes help comes from the most surprising places. Excellent!
You want to know about the plot, don't you? Well, I'm not going to tell you very much because it's great and you should read the book rather than my description. I'm not even going to explain where the title comes from – but it's all carefully crafted and written with style. There's an elegant nod (and with extremely good provenance) to Swallows and Amazons and before that to Treasure Island. It's an adventure story entirely devoid of mobile phones and computer games – and I'm going to allow my grandchildren to fight over which one gets to read my copy first. Boys and girls will both love it and as for the appropriate age I'd say ten to a hundred and ten – approximately and allowing a little leeway either side.
Claudia Myatt's line drawings add much to the book and I've been practicing the finger-spelling alphabet from her illustrations.
It's one of the great adventure stories of 2011 and I'd like to thank the author and publisher for sending a copy to the Bookbag.
For another rebooting of a well-respected story we can recommend Tarzan: The Greystoke Legacy by Andy Briggs.
I can't believe that it's more than three years since I read The Salt-Stained Book as it's one of those stories that lingers in your mind, but I didn't hesitate when I was offered the chance to listen to an audio version narrated by Anna Bentinck. I was stunned. The story is as good as ever (have you ever reread a book and been just a little bit disappointed?) and even though I knew exactly what would happen I was still completely swept up in the story. Part of this is obviously Julia Jones' plot, but the narration is superb. If asked before I listened to the book I would have said that a 'good reader' could narrate a story, but Bentinck moves reading into a different profession. She's - for want of a better term - a voice artist, capturing each individual character perfectly and bringing them to life. I listened as though to a play with a narrator. The story is just short of eight hours long, but I listened to the first six without a break and only stopped then because my husband pointed out that supper was long overdue and the excuse that I wanted to know what happened next didn't really hold water.
If I was taking children on an 'are we nearly there?' journey I'd have this playing in the car. Everyone will enjoy it and the trip will go by in a flash. You might even get away with playing it again on the way home.
You can read more book reviews or buy Strong Winds Trilogy: The Salt-Stained Book by Julia Jones and Claudia Myatt at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Strong Winds Trilogy: The Salt-Stained Book by Julia Jones and Claudia Myatt at Amazon.com.
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