Skip to main content

Swimming against the tide

The Rock Boy (above) by Jan Michael (O'Brien Press pound;4.99) also features a silent, incommunicative character and a watery, idyllic setting. On one level this is an exotic rescue story; on a more subtle level it deals with the topical issue of asylum-seeking. Jo lives on Malta and goes to stay with her aunt and uncle in another part of the island for the summer. As the book opens she becomes trapped in the Hypogeum, a cavernous crypt-cemetery, older than the Egyptian Pyramids. Her uncle is the shrine's custodian and ticket-seller.

The main focus of the book is Jo's discovery of a nearly-lifeless body, washed up on the rocks in a deserted cove. Helped by a new friend, Andreas, Jo nurses the stranger and discovers that he is a young refugee from Albania. With the importance of keeping his existence concealed, the Hypogeum is an obvious hiding-place for him. Just as satisfying as this adventure tale about discovery and hiding, is the picture of a young Maltese girl's life in the home of a light-heartedly quarrelsome aunt and uncle. Jan Michael has written a memorable and accessible novel for Year 4 and above.

River of Secrets by Griselda Gifford (Andersen Press pound;4.99) is another watery mystery story for the same age-group. Fran, with her mother and stepfather, has moved into the rural home of her grandmother, whose body was found in the nearby river. Solving the mystery of her death becomes an obsession for Fran and there are repercussions for members of the neighbouring family, who cower under the bullying violence of the father.

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you