Our Castle by the Sea

Our Castle by the Sea

Our Castle by the Sea
Lucy Strange

Chicken House Ltd

ISBN 9781911490524

From the bestselling author of THE SECRET OF NIGHTINGALE WOOD comes an exciting wartime mystery entwined with magic and myth ... 'A beautiful story.' KIRAN MILLWOOD HARGRAVE, author of The Girl of Ink & Stars '[A] mesmerising second novel' THE TELEGRAPH 'Underpinned by the legend of a sea monster, this is a rewardingread.' DAILY MAIL England is at war. Growing up in a lighthouse, Pet's world has been one of storms, secret tunnels and stories about sea monsters. But now the clifftops are a terrifying battleground, and her family is torn apart. This is the story of a girl who is small, afraid and unnoticed. A girl who freezes with fear at the enemy planes ripping through the skies overhead. A girl who is somehow destined to become part of the strange, ancient legend of the Daughters of Stone ...

Librarian's Book choice

This is an interesting and exciting book, set in the early years of WW2, that focuses on a family living in the lighthouse of a small coastal community and the events and emotions that can transfigure both a family and a community and the relationships between them. The story is linked to an ancient legend of the Wyrm and the Stones, which introduces a mystical element.

The story is told by Petra, the younger of two sisters living with their parents in a lighthouse; their father is the lighthouse keeper and their mother (Mutti) is German, and this immediately has a strong impact on the emotions portrayed within the book.

As war breaks out, many people within the community become suspicious of Mutti due to her origins and the sisters begin to feel isolated. When Mutti is sent to an internment camp, the relationship between the sisters undergoes considerable changes, due partly to the impact of outside influences, their individual methods used to protect the family and the introduction of doubt. There is an underlying feeling of distrust and disbelief woven within the book both within the family and the community and this introduces the idea that no one is quite who they seem; a difficult concept for a child (Petra) to understand.

As the war progresses, so does the development of the characters including their differing understandings of right and wrong and it is shown how these are used to influence others. In addition to the emotional aspect there is much action-packed adventure, which draws the reader into the story and encourages the development of empathy with the individual people.

The story encompasses many different aspects of life, the main focus being on the development and changing of relationships and the feeling of loneliness. It touches on very sensitive issues including death, betrayal, blackmail, love, loyalty, disability and patriotism and evokes feelings of compassion, which may be more appropriate to a slightly older reader.

The twists and turns really will engage readers and encourage them to predict outcomes. There are elements within the book that most children will be able to relate to within modern day life, which will prompt discussion, whilst developing an understanding of the personal impact of war.

321 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Salliann Coleman, consultant.


Our Castle by the Sea5/5

Our Castle by the Sea

Lucy Strange


Set during the first few years of World War II, this is the story of Pet (Petra) and her family, who live in a lighthouse on the Kent coast. The lighthouse stands by the Daughters of Stone, a group of four standing stones and this story cleverly combines ancient legends with the coming of war.

Pet is young and scared for a whole host of reasons, not least the war itself. Her big sister Mags is growing up and becoming more distant and her mother, who is German, is becoming unpopular in the village with the start of hostilities with Germany. Village life by the sea is vividly captured and details about the lighthouse itself create the central focal point for the story.

This book ramps up the tension from the start; the reader knows something is about to happen, but it is not a predictable story line. In fact, there was only one bit of the plot I guessed beforehand, and it is this aspect that makes it a very exciting read. It is also a story told from a point of view with a different slant from other children's wartime fiction. There are little details that make it thought provoking, such as the passing of laws about enemy aliens, and these have strong echoes with the current situation about immigration.

Many schools cover World War II as part of their history curriculum, and this book is a very good addition to the reading material available for Upper Key Stage 2. Classes studying life in England during the war will have plenty to ponder on and as it is not about evacuees or life in the city, it makes it a welcome extra fiction title for the topic.

Chosen as an Indie's Bookshops book of the month, this is a haunting story that will stay with you long after you have turned the last page and I have to confess I shed a few tears at the end!

336 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by Jacqueline Harris, teacher.

Reviewed by: Jacqueline Harris