LONGLIST REVIEW: The Secret of Black Rock

Erin Pike lives in a small fishing town that lives under the shadow of a mysterious island legend. Erin longs to see Black Rock, but the Fishermen and women tell her scary tales of the creatures she might encounter there. Erin’s passion for adventure drives her daily to her mother’s boat where she hides, hoping she won’t be discovered until her mother has set sail so that she can discover the legend for herself and the secrets that the Island holds.

Erin finally outwits her mother and stows away onboard her fishing vessel, but she is not prepared to be out at sea and soon finds herself overboard without being noticed. The ocean envelops her in its inky blackness and it seems that hope is lost. Fortunately for Erin, her tumble into the sea has woken Black Rock, who it appears is much more than a craggy island. Black Rock is himself a creature of the sea, a habitat for hundreds of forms of underwater life.

Erin is astonished by the secret of Black Rock and is desperate to share these wonders with everyone back at home and she persuades Black Rock to take her back to shore. Once at home, Erin’s attempts to explain the marvels of the Black Rock fall on prejudiced ears. The grown ups do not believe her and want to destroy what they believe is a monster. In the dead of night, Erin rows out in her little dingy to warn Black Rock, in an attempt to keep him safe.

Foolishly, the people of the fishing town bring huge metal ships with drills to destroy the rock and Erin finds herself bravely standing as a human shield to protect her new friend. She is not alone in her attempts to protect the rock and the creatures of the sea join her, offering protection to their beautiful Island friend. Finally, the fishermen realise their mistake- Black Rock isn’t a monster at all, but a wonderful habit for the creatures of the sea.

This story ends, as all good stories should, with a happy ending, as Erin and her family make Black Rock their new home. They build a lighthouse in order to keep the rock safe from anyone else who may mistakenly sail too close or threaten to destroy the environment the island provides.

This is beautifully illustrated junior graphic novel by author and illustrator Joe Todd-Stanton. Each illustration holds a wealth of feeling and detail. Whilst this book was originally written for a young audience, the message is relevant for all ages and could be used with all ages.

Ideas for using this book in the classroom:

  1. View with book without the text and have children attempt to write their own version of the story.
  2. Research creatures found either in rock pools or inhabit rocky islands and write about them.
  3. Write in character as Erin. Describe the wonders of Black Rock and persuade the people of the town to protect the Island and not destroy it.
  4. Take a look at Flying Eye’s interview with Joe Todd-Stanton. Find out what inspires his work. Start a sketch book in order to gather inspiration for creating a weird character that could live in your school environment.
  5. Create a legend of your own about a creature that lives in your town. Add an environmental twist to your story. How will your monster help the environment and why should it be protected?

The Secret of Black Rock Joe Todd-Stanton

Flying Eye      ISBN: 9781911171256

You can read another review of 'The Secret of Black Rock' here.