Published during a pandemic that saw the country come to a standstill, the third installment in Fleur Hitchcock’s utterly brilliant Clifftoppers series entered the world of children’s literature. This is neither a book or series that should be overlooked, instead readers should be delighting in seeing the newest installment arriving, and left in despair after reading it because they face the inevitable wait for the next adventure. That is me by the way, eagerly awaiting the next titles release and excited to bring awareness once again to this adventure filled book and the incredible series it is a part of, because these books contain the quality and depth we desperately seek to promote to readers today. The Thorn Island Adventure and the entire Clifftoppers series have all the traits of a modern day classic, and I have no doubt that authors of yesteryear would be proud to offer quotes to feature on the cover and delight in stating the exact same.
Many of you will be familiar with the author Enid Blyton, perhaps best known for her The Famous Five series, which comes to mind when reading the Clifftopper titles, for me though there was a much more reminiscent vibe of my favourite childhood author Arthur Ransome. I first came across his books when I moved to a new school and took sanctuary in having access to new books I hadn’t seen before, whilst trying to avoid being lonely and friendless. Having read all the books of interest to me from the schools library (a small array of shelves in the corridor by the school office) I began reading books from the higher year group reading areas, and that was when I spotted Swallows and Amazons.
That first title by Arthur Ransome really hooked me in to an adventure story involving four children who go off on adult less adventures that involving sailing, cooking fish they have caught over campfires, exploring and enjoying the outdoors and all the freedom and opportunity it offers. I was an immediate fan and went on to read every title by the author in the series – Swallowdale, Winter Holiday, Pigeon Post and Picts and Martyrs, and not wanting my adventures to end there I also read the spin offs such as Coot Club and We Didn’t Mean To Go To Sea. In a completely related way, I borrowed Swallows and Amazons from my local library just prior to the country facing lockdown – and it has the exact same design that I remember adorning the cover!
So here I am with the third installment of this fantastic series from Fleur Hitchcock, which features cousins Ava, Josh, Chloe and Aiden. The four have already had some unbelievable adventures whilst staying at their grandparents in the most idyllic countryside where you would think it least likely that your adventures would involve uncovering truths in mysteries and solving crimes.
After overhearing a conversation detailing a local fisherman’s boat potentially having been stolen, the children head to their boathouse and take out their grandad’s boat to search local waters for any sighting. Whilst sailing by Thorn Island one of the children – Chloe – is adamant she has seen what looked to be a face in one of the lighthouse windows, and that they looked like they were in some sort of trouble. The others are initially sceptical but they soon unite in creating a plan and look to go and investigate, if only to disprove the suggestion that there’s someone needing help at that location.
The story builds in suspense as the children separate into pairs, each tasked with a specific itenary that contributes to the overall goal of finding out more about happenings on Thorn Island. Altercations the children have had with adults from the offset ensure there is a sense of danger in the air as they haven’t been pleasant interactions – almost being run off the road, being spoken to rudely, abruptness – the children have been fantastic in what they have had to endure, and know they need to be very careful whilst exploring locations that could make them vulnerable.
The children are incredibly independant, and experts in working together to utilise each others strongest attributes to benefit the situation they find themselves in as well as the overall outcome. Ava is a competent sailor and has been given permission to sail her grandad’s boat, Josh is incredibly observant and notes details overlooked by others, Chloe is trustworthy and keen to always do the right thing, and Aiden is brilliant at creating plans for the four to follow that always have their safety at the heart of each decision he makes. They are all incredibly brave, and make brilliant role models for readers, especially as the children in the book are keen to enjoy being outdoors and make the most of the freedoms and opportunities this provides, which is something that more of today’s children often lack and would benefit massively from.
“Above him two seagulls circled. In the distance a trawler chugged through Drake’s Bay, more seagulls following. Sunlight sparkled on the water and warmed his back. Rigging slapped gently against the yacht masts. It all sounded summery, relaxed, happy.”
This is a quote from the first pages of the book, and I chose this example because it depicts the beauty of the scenery so vividly that you can understand how readers become immersed so early on in the story, and throughout the 164 pages it comprises to the very end. Fleur has a magical way of writing children’s stories that the intended audience can relate to the content of, and follow the plot easily, both of which are incredibly important to today’s young readers who also look for the sort of detail and depth you are rewarded with when reading Clifftoppers The Thorn Island Adventure. Relating to the content could come in the form of having visited or seen similar sceneries and landscapes to that which is detailed in the story, or the ethnicity of the characters in the book – hugely important and significant, or even recognise in themselves or others the traits that the characters portray.
The titles in the Clifftoppers series can definitely be considered feel good books that portray a gorgeous location that is home to good people looking to do the right thing and uncover the truth. The children go on the most unforgettable adventures in each of the titles, with every one of the titles equally capable of being a standalone read as much as another visit to four unbelievably brave and brilliant children that you come to know and love. So if you are asked for a recommendation for a feel good adventure story then look no further than Clifftoppers The Thorn Island Adventure or the other books in this series. Those readers will undoubtedly look back fondly at these titles in many years to come and cherish the adventure, the escapism, and the moment that they ignited their desire to read for pleasure – as I do with those titles from my time in primary school over twenty five years ago, which have stayed with me ever since.
To read my review of Clifftoppers The Arrowhead Moor Adventure (Book One in the series) click here.
To read why I chose Clifftoppers The Arrowhead Moor Adventure (Book One) and The Fire Bay Adventure (Book Two) as titles that made my 2019 reading journey unforgettable click here.
To read an utterly brilliant blog feature – A Clifftoppers Conversation with Fleur Hitchcock click here.