The Lost Child's Quest - James Haddell
Just like the evil Mr Silverman, right from the action-packed beginnings of this story where he first appears, I was hooked and desperate to know more about the character of Tia and her past! Who is this girl, where has she come from, and why has she ended up here…what are the mysterious ‘Thirteen Treasures’ she has and how do they link to her history?
All credit to author, James Haddell, who has created a character that I engaged with right from the off. The description of orphaned Tia’s uncertainty at moving to a new home, the escape from Mr Silverman’s chase into the safety of Mrs Trevelyan, and her new start with that family all serving to create a bond and connection with the character that feels deeply personal, so that we are right alongside her throughout, and invested in her adventure and journey.
Again, right from the start, James Haddell sets us up with expectation of adventure – Tia’s new home is called 'Stormhaven', but will it actually live up to its name and protect her from danger? Her new family’s relatives are all involved in exciting and dangerous pursuits – will she be too? And the action and drama continues right through this fast-paced tale, which will keep readers (and listeners) guessing and racing through the pages to find out what happens!
Alongside the drama and adventure are the themes of family, identity and belonging, and Tia’s experience of moving and getting to know her new family are openly yet sensitively dealt with. Discussions and greater awareness about the feelings and emotions that adopted children may feel are sure to ensue from a reading of this book, and it is clear that James Haddell’s own experiences of dealing with these situations have been used to great effect in this aspect of the tale.
There is a great cast of characters contained within the pages: from the sinister Silverman, to historians providing further information about treasures; classmates to get in trouble with; treasure-seeking, scuba-diving nanas; Lords and their greedy, scheming heirs; a Headteacher who treks the Amazon; and the wonderful Grandpa Locryn. I loved the use of so many traditional names in the book – a really authentic touch.
It’s also packed with fantastic descriptions of locations – castles, caves, coastlines and cottages galore, as well as lots of great references to local lore and ancient myths (think pirates, smugglers, long-lost treasures and Arthurian legend for starters) that cry out for further investigation, and add real detail and depth to the rest of this fantasy/magical adventure. Mentions of real places such as Wilberforce House in Hull also add to the authenticity of the story and invite linked, history-themed reading and discovery. The addition of maps to help navigate the locations encountered by the children on their quest was a nice touch too!
There are also touches of humour along the way – using a centuries old magical pot to produce a slice of pepperoni pizza was one notable example, and I thoroughly enjoyed the Indiana Jones-style climax to Tia’s quest! As a teacher, the related information about the artefacts mentioned in the book and the chapter-by-chapter activity suggestions were a fantastic and thoughtful inclusion (James Haddell used to be a teacher, so knows what ticks the boxes!!).
I can’t wait to read more from this new author about Tia’s adventures. She is a fantastic character, and the adventurous nature and pace of the novel along with the engaging and arresting style with which it is told are all major plus points for this, the first in a planned series called 'Tales of Truth and Treasure'.
Great stuff – it’s a cracking read – I’m looking forward to getting my hands on a real copy that I can share in class (I’d personally recommend this for Upper KS2 readers).
Thanks to James Haddell for the advance e-copy of the book to review and for letting me be part of the blog tour on launch day (congratulations, and happy 'book-birthday!).
James is on Twitter as @JHaddell and you can listen to him read from the book here:
Find out more about the series, James and order signed copies of ‘The Lost Child’s Quest’ through this link:
The book is published by Emira Press: https://www.emirapress.co.uk/ (Twitter: @EmiraPress)
Review by Rich Simpson (Instagram and Twitter: @richreadalot)