By Holly Rivers
Following on from the incredible storytelling that Holly Rivers revealed in her debut Demelza and the Spectre Detectors I am absolutely delighted to share my review of her brand new publication, The Boy in the Post. When I first heard the title I was so intrigued as to how a boy could even fit in the post, so I thought of something similar to that of Flat Stanley. I was so wrong. This is such an imaginative and enthralling middle grade adventure that I genuinely wish I had the pleasure of reading this for the first time again, and will definitely be recommending it to readers at every opportunity. My children have heard my verbal synopsis of the story ahead of me writing this review, and I have already seen the book accompany a keen reader to bed! It made me think of Home Alone mixed in with Around the World in 80 Days, and with a dash of Dr Dolittle.
Three children are the focus of this tale, in which we come to understand that circumstances at home mean they are often occupying themselves, and when the summer holidays come along their interaction with the advertisement in a local shop leads them to making friends, of both the human and animal form, and keeping themselves entertained by helping with a project (the animails) that these locals are passionately undertaking.
Orinthia, her older brother Seafra, and their younger brother Taber soon find themselves in much different circumstances to what they are used to, and a far more interesting summer then even they could have imagined. Orinthia has a determination to leave her comfort zone, and longs to live an adventurous life like that of her explorer role model, Ophelia Pearcart, when she grows up. It is both of these characteristics in this middle child that ultimately kickstart the ensuing drama, and its consequential overseas voyage for the trio, beginning with them signing up to the animails, which sees them introduced to, and training, animals.
It is when the Pelican that young Taber has been bonding with, as he teaches it how to carry and deliver mail, that the decision is made to send the large bird on a journey to New York, and back, to really put the birds learning to the test. Weeks pass and there is no sign of the bird, and Taber is understandably heartbroken, so he takes matters into his own hand by sneaking off during the night, and shipping himself off to the destination in New York via a crate of animal feed! When Orinthia and Seafra awake to the realisation of their younger siblings departure they set about planning how to achieve the same for themselves, and this is where Orinthia’s dreams of exploration come true, years before she would have imagined them possible.
The pair combine their desire to reunite with their brother with the skills of the multiple children that live at and work within the animails, a place that has become a second home for the three siblings over the past few weeks, and they collectively come up with an unbelievable plan to ensure success. All they have to do is commit a robbery, pack the brother and sister into a crate intended for antiques, and then journey by train across to London, and then Ship to New York! There are many things that go wrong, and they do – the pair face near misses of being caught, realise they are wanted criminals on an international scale, and then are eventually detained by crew members onboard the ship they have been stowaways on. With the help of a new friend they have made onboard they are able to escape, but they face further danger and uncertainty as a result.
When they wash up on American soil the duo are convinced they have achieved what they set out to do, but their ordeal isn’t over yet, and they find themselves needing to get across America in a hurry, with only the clothes they are wearing, but through the kindness of chance encounters the pair once again find themselves making progress towards Taber, who they have learnt is tied up and in need of rescue, via hot air ballooning! Even Orinthia could never have imagined she would embark on an adventure crossing land, sea, and air to rescue her younger brother when she began her school holidays, and yet she and Seafra do all these things with a determination and bravery that readers will have the uttermost respect for. We would all travel to the end of the earth for our loved ones, and this is a story of two children achieving just that.
Details from early in the story become relevant to later on in the book, and characters that have positive interactions with the children on their voyage also return in the stories concluding chapters, all of which wraps this entire story up neatly for readers, leaving nothing unexplained. There are some laugh out loud moments for children to enjoy as they read, and plenty of tension filled scenes unfold amongst the utterly brilliant, detailed and depthy, scenes that are depicted within, all of which makes this such an immersive and enthralling read.
Few authors can say they have achieved the high standard of writing that Holly has in The Boy in the Post, and her attention to detail setting the scene in each and every aspect of this transatlantic adventure is testament to her talents as a children’s author. Whether it be the inside of the Post Office the children break in to, or that of rooms intended for first class passengers onboard the ship that they sneak through, or even the landscape passing below the siblings as they travel by hot air balloon, all of these things and more are written about with such a high attention to detail that ensures readers can envisage every inch of it all, and subsequently feel as though they are right there too. To do so throughout a long distanced, multiple transport, multiple location story is no easy feat, yet readers will smell the salty air at the port, feel the wind in their air as they travel by hot air balloon, and hear the hustle and bustle of the streets (and so much more besides), therefore no one can deny that this book is utterly breath taking from start to finish as a result of how talented this young author is, and she has only just begun sharing just how incredible her imaginative storytelling is as a children’s author.
Holly Rivers has written the 2022 must read for children everywhere with The Boy in the Post, and in doing so has secured herself as one to watch going forward too. Her debut title, which published in February 2020, made her presence in this industry known, and her writing has gone from strength to strength with this latest book, which published last week (3rd March), and will definitely ensure fans everywhere are left delighted, and undoubtedly lead to awards recognising this too.
This is my first book by Holly Rivers and I couldn’t wait to start the book.
We are introduced to 3 siblings Orinthia, Seafra and Taber who live with their mum. Mum is always working, she inherited a car showroom from her dad, and she works all hours trying to make a success of the business. Unfortunately she has left the children to their own devices during the long summer holiday. The children are bored so decide to get a summer job, a job training animals to deliver the post.
They meet the eccentric Grandy who runs the business and along with his children show the three siblings what needs doing.
They get a really exciting job, the chance to train 3 birds. They form such a bond with the birds that when the pelican goes missing young Taber decides to post himself to New York to find the bird.
Of course his siblings need to follow, then begins the adventure of a lifetime.
This is a beautiful, gentle book that will take you on the journey of a lifetime, it will have you wishing you were one of the siblings. Now if I could post myself anywhere in the world I’d love to visit Canada, where would you like to go?
Published by Chicken House, this book is available to buy from all good booksellers now, and for more reviews do check out the rest of the blog tour via information below.