Title: The Extraordinary Adventures of Alice Tonks
Written by: Emily Kenny
Illustrated by: Flavia Sorrentino
Published by: Rock the Boat (Oneworld Publications)
The Extraordinary Adventures of Alice Tonks is one of those rare gems that stands out above many middle grade novels. I was totally hooked by Emily Kenny’s unique concept of a young autistic girl who can talk to and shapeshift into different animals.
The book is set at Pebblewood Boarding School, situated on a cliff-top overlooking the beach and caves. The book opens with Alice finding it difficult to keep calm on the beach during the school’s open day, with the hazards of the gritty sand and slimy seaweed threatening to overcome all her senses. Her panic attack leads her to storm off, leaving her grandmother on the beach. When a seagull tells her he has a job for her, Alice is unsure whether she has sunstroke and is hallucinating.
Alice discovers she must endeavour to solve the mystery of who is stealing the animals. Her mission challenges her friendships with the other new students, Ottie and Tim. Both the animal and human characters have been well developed with distinct characteristic traits. All the main characters have difficulties fitting into their new school, each for their own reasons: Emily because she is on the edge of the autism scale, Tim because his mother is suffering from depression and Ottie because her uncle is the headmaster.
I would recommend reading this book as part of national mental health awareness week as, from a teacher’s point of view who has worked in special education, Emily’s portrayal of Alice’s coping mechanisms and problems negotiating new people and situations were realistic and sensitively portayed, as was Tim’s protectiveness of his mother and her depression. Perfect for stimulating a discussion on empathy.
The Extraordinary Adventures of Alice Tonks would be a great novel to read to a Key Stage Two class and is the ideal addition to any child’s bookshelf. There were several well-plotted twists and turns that even took me by surprise. Emily Kenny has succeeded in creating an exceptional book that left me wanting a sequel.
I have previously featured Emily Kenny on my blog as part of her book tour for The Extraordinary Adventures of Alice Tonks. You can read the author interview here: Blog Tour – The Extraordinary Adventures of Alice Tonks by Emily Kenny.
The Extraordinary Adventures of Alice Tonks is available to buy now from your local bookshop, or online at uk.bookshop.org, an organisation with a mission to financially support local, independent bookshops.
I would like to thank Anne Cater from Random Things Through My Letterbox and Rock the Boat Publishers for sending me a copy of The Extraordinary Adventures of Alice Tonks to review on this blog. Thank you.