LONG LIST REVIEW: The Children of Castle Rock


After her mother died, Alice Mistlethwaite has become increasingly withdrawn, constantly reading and writing stories only Barney, her father, is allowed to read. As he is an actor and often away from home, Aunt Patience decides it would be best to sell their home, Cherry Grange, and send Alice to a boarding school in Scotland. Although Alice protests, she finds herself arriving at Stormy Loch, a school with very different ideas about education. 

When she receives a mysterious package from her father with strict instructions not to open it, but to take it to a remote island, Alice seizes the opportunity the Great Orienteering Challenge offers to deliver it...

An adventure story in the tradition of boarding school favourites, 'The Children of Castle Rock' is a great read with lots of action and interesting characters. Stormy Loch offers the perfect setting for the children to escape the adult presence and allows the adventure to develop in the wilds of remote Scotland- beautifully described, leaving the reader longing to visit!

Although an adventure, the story is really focused on relationships- those between children and those with parents. Alice adores her father, choosing to ignore his shadier side and the choices he makes until events force her to realise that he should act like the grown up in their relationship and put her well being above his. Fergus, an extremely clever boy who Alice has become friendly with, is struggling with his parent's acrimonious divorce and Jesse, another friend, feels over shadowed by his older brothers whose confidence and talents make him feel inadequate. There are also some interesting moments in the relationships between these very different friends as the story progresses. 

'The Children of Castle Rock' has much to recommend it for children moving on to more challenging reads. Natasha Farrant has allowed her children to swear in the story as they most likely would do, but has chosen to use asterisks to make this more palatable for adults! (It is very obvious what they would be saying!) A great story with great characters and an unusual ending- what more could you ask for!

The Children of Castle Rock    Natasha Farrant 

Faber and Faber      ISBN: 978-0571323562