The multi-talented (and now prolific!) writer of children’s books, the very lovely Emma Carroll, has done it again with her latest release, Letters from the Lighthouse.
It’s a pacy, nuanced and stealthily educational middle-grade age story about World War II and the kinds of deeds local communities did in order to help fleeing refugees.
Letters from the Lighthouse is about a girl named Olive, and her brother Cliff who are evacuated from London to coastal Devon to get away from the German air raids. It tells the story of Olive and how she makes/loses/and makes again friendships, adapts to a different life by the sea, gets involved in hunting for her missing sister Sukie, and generally becomes an amateur sleuth to work out how everyone around her appears to be involved in some kind of secret plot.
I won’t give too much away about the plot, but parts of the story involve Olive learning how the Jews have been treated during the war (horrifically), and – aside from Emma’s ability to write an engaging, warm and cosy Morpurgo-esque story about WWII –
this storyline about the Jews is one I admire Emma for writing about.
Not only is it a difficult subject to get to grips with, to do it respectful justice, but it’s also hard to incorporate it contextually in a novel and for it to come across as natural and educational for children who may not (yet) know what happened during WWII.
Olive, the main character is likeable, although there were times during the book I got a bit exasperated with her, apparently mis-placed, anger…but I think this was Emma’s way of portraying a young girl’s intense emotions at being lost in a new town, and afraid for her missing sister.
I loved the fact the story had secret codes Olive and Cliff needed to crack, and that they encountered some really war-time and harrowing events in the story. Letters from the Lighthouse was a really good book…and I’d just like to add, the book’s front cover , illustrated by Julian De Narvaez, is stunning too!