Talent for Trouble
by Farrant, Natasha

A boarding school girl desperate to connect with her unpredictable father persuades two friends to cut class for an off-the-grid adventure on a remote island, where they navigate formidable obstacles, including a gang of international jewel thieves. 25,000 first printing. Simultaneous eBook.

Natasha Farrant is a literary scout and has written fiction for young people and adults. She admits to being a terrible map-reader. She lives in London.

*Starred Review* Four years after her mother's death, Alice faces another wrenching change: her aunt Patience sells their idyllic English home, where the 11-year-old spends her days writing stories, and sends her niece to Stormy Loch, a Scottish boarding school that fosters independence and discovering one's talent. There Alice befriends two boys, Jesse and Fergus. While each of them is less than whole, they all become stronger during their sometimes-harrowing exploits. Alice repeatedly attempts to contact her distant, unreliable father, and in the final chapters, she and her friends secretly travel over land and sea to meet him on a remote Scottish island. Intermittently, the narrator pauses the storytelling to offer readers a different perspective (Aunt Patience's "secret wish to help Alice live as passionately as she wrote"), a hint of what's to come ("at least two betrayals, and a few lies, and a couple of near-death experiences"), or a helpful warning ("Please never, ever try at home what Alice did next"). In this well-crafted chapter book, the early scenes on the overnight train to Scotland and in the idiosyncratic school are as riveting as the later adventures atop the castle and in the wild. A rewarding novel with distinctive settings, well-drawn characters, and a satisfying conclusion. Grades 5-7. Copyright 2019 Booklist Reviews.

At a ramshackle Scottish boarding school, three children begin a hair-raising adventure. Why must Alice's home, Cherry Grange, be sold? Ever since her mum died four years ago, Alice—a dark-haired, white 11-year-old—has been a shadow of her former self. Her beloved father is unreliable, and her aunt decides nothing will help Alice but a fresh start. So it's off to Stormy Loch Academy for Alice. It's an odd sort of place: full of Challenges, where students discover Talents, and actions have Consequences. (Both characters and narrator have a tendency to speak with capitalized significance.) More importantly, the building is a storybook castle, with forbidden towers and pigs to feed. Despite an extremely rough start, Alice comes to depend on two of her classmates. Jesse Okuyo is a tall, multiracial rule-follower, and Fergus Mackenzie is a rule-breaking white redhead and the bane of Jesse's existence. On the Great Orienteering Challenge, the three discover that Alice's mercurial father has entangled them in a dangerous adventure, complete with foreign crim inals, shootings, and an island chase. The adventure is self-consciously—and delightfully—in the spirit of classic British school stories: Alice's favorite book is Eva Ibbotson's Amazon adventure, Journey to the River Sea (2001), and the foreshadowing narrative voice is markedly old school. Prose peppered with ellipses and dashes at times drags this otherwise-buoyant coming-of-age tale into languid meanders. Smashing: a romantic, ripping yarn set in the mobile-phone era. (Adventure. 10-12) Copyright Kirkus 2019 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.


Goodbye, Cherry Grange

IMAGINE A HOUSE, in a garden. The paint is flaking and the chimney is cracked and the uncut grass is wild. But ignore all that. Look here instead, at the giant wisteria with a vine as thick as your arm, its purple flowers dripping against the old stone wall. Look at the swing hanging from that ancient oak, those cherry trees planted in a circle around the house. One of the trees is so close to a window that in summer, when it fruits, the girl who lives here can reach out to pick the cherries.
      Imagine thatpicking cherries from your bedroom window!
      The house, Cherry Grange, was named for the trees. A man called Albert Mistlethwaite built it over a hundred years ago when he came home from a war, and his family has lived here ever since.
      That's a lot of cherries, and pies, and cakes, and pots of jam.
      We'll go inside now. Do you see those pale rectangles on the hall floor, those other pale rectangles on the walls? They were made by rugs and pictures, but those have gone now, along with all the furniture. There's nothing left but dust and sunlight.
      Let's move on! Here is the kitchenand here is the family, finishing breakfast.
      Small, pale eleven-year-old Alice sits cross-legged on the counter with her nose in a book, tracing the words with her finger as she reads, chewing the end of one of her stiff dark braids. Her father, Barney (you may have seen him once on television), stands drinking coffee by the window with his back to the room, while his older sister, Alice's aunt Patience, in paint-spattered overalls, dries crockery at the sink.
      The last of the Mistlethwaites, in their natural habitat. Take a good lookyou'll not see this again. For the house is sold, and today they are moving out.

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