Lisa Thompson

The Light Jar

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'The Light Jar' is a powerful, touching story about Nate and his mother who wakes him in the middle of the night to take him on holiday. However, it soon becomes clear that all is not as it seems...

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This is one of those books which I find so hard to review as I would hate to spoil it for anyone who hasn't read it! The book is carefully constructed so that many layers and ideas unfold as the story progresses so the reader gradually finds out more about Nate and the events that led up to his mother deciding that they should leave their home. Lisa Thompson handles difficult subject matter sensitively and thoughtfully, acknowledging and validating fear in its many forms. 

The story is about friendship and bravery. The characters are well developed and the plot well paced and engaging. This is definitely one which will be going onto my class shelves and which will be suggested as a book for reading at our JAB meetings. 

The Light Jar by Lisa Thompson

Scholastic  ISBN: 978-1407171289

Published January 2018

You can read our review of Lisa's debut book  'The Goldfish Boy' here and here.

LONGLIST REVIEW: The Goldfish Boy

Matthew Corbin lives in a quiet little cul-de-sac which no one would ever suspect would become the centre of a serious crime investigation. However, behind the doors of each home on the street, there are people who harbour secrets which slowly begin to unravel and it appears Matthew holds the key to deciphering them. Matthew observes the comings and goings of his neighbours each day from his bedroom window. He is able to do this because he hasn’t left his house in over a week and has confined himself to his room for the foreseeable future. 

Matthew has obsessive compulsive disorder. It started with hand washing then developed into cleaning and recently, Matthew has taken to wearing disposable gloves and imprisoning himself in his room. Matthew’s fear of germs and sickness keep him prisoner there because to him dirt means germs, germs mean illness and illness means death. Matthew’s only real connection to the outside world is his notebook about the daily routines of his neighbours.

When the grandson of his next door neighbour disappears, it seems that Matthew is the last person to have see him alive. His notebook will prove essential to working out how to find the little boy and working out who took him and why. But poor Matthew is confined to his room. Will he be brave enough to face his fears and solve the mystery? Matthew is also hiding secrets of his own and the real test will be his ability to open up and share the events that triggered his illness.

‘Goldfish Boy’ is a brilliantly written debut novel by author, Lisa Thompson. Not only is it a window into the world of those suffering with obsessive compulsive disorder, but also a page turning mystery. Readers are hooked until the end of the story. Even when the mystery has been solved, we are left rooting for Matthew to reveal his own secrets and receive the help he needs for his condition. It’s a book that enables the reader to understand and empathise with individuals suffering from OCD, giving real insight into the compulsions and obsessions that make disorders like this so debilitating. Don’t be fooled into thinking that this is a distressing or dreary read; on the contrary, it is light-hearted with a strong vein of hope running throughout.

Readers could create a timeline of events whist reading the ‘Goldfish Boy’ using Matthew’s notebook observations. The time line could then be used to identify potential suspects, as Matthew did, using observations to identify clues and characters that might have had the motive and opportunity to take the little boy from next door. Class members could act as characters from the book and fellow classmates could interview them regarding their motivations for committing the crime. Both of these ideas will help readers to develop critical thinking and reasoning skills which are important reading skills to develop if they are to continue to enjoy books from the mystery genre. Scholastic have produced this great resource for you to download, with ideas for for teaching Goldfish Boy in the classroom.

Goldfish Boy by  Lisa Thompson

Scholastic    ISBN: 9781407170992

Facing fears; finding friends...

Suffering from severe obsessive compulsive disorder, Matthew hasn't been to school in ages. He confines himself to his home- mainly his bedroom where he feels he has complete control over germs which mean illness and illness which means death.

To keep himself busy, Matthew watches his neighbours from the upstairs windows, noting what is going on and when it happens. Although the residents of the cul-de-sac don't appreciate his observations, when the toddler from next door, Teddy, goes missing, Matthew was the last person to see him and becomes the focus of the police enquiry.

What follows is a mystery which Matthew is determined to solve- but to do so, he must face his own fears and leave the safety of his home.

This is a book which works in so many ways. Matthew's street is full of very 'normal' people yet, as we see them through Matthew's eyes, we learn that they too are harbouring a multitude of secrets. Everyone's story develops as the mystery unravels, showing how wrong first impressions can be. The 'upstanding', the bully, the 'weird' and the reclusive all have a story to tell.

The book is funny and sad in turns, encouraging the reader to think more deeply before judging others. Matthew's condition is handled skillfully, without patronising or shying away from the realities of his condition and its crippling effects on not just Matthew, but those around him.

A very satisfying read, 'The Goldfish Boy' is one to add to the 'must have' list!

The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson

Scholastic   ISBN: 978-1407170992