‘We won’t be beaten by hate…’
In my second year of Uni, one of my modules was Children’s Literature. I begrudgingly signed up as I thought it would be easy, it turns out it wasn’t, but it did set in motion a newfound adoration for books aimed at children. It also ties in nicely in my role as a teacher as I often have to read children’s books in that capacity too. It’s been a pleasure reading stuff like The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and Private Peaceful and while it is satisfying taking on the classics, sometimes you just want to read something simple. Especially if you have a tiny monkey brain like me. And so, to Letters from the Lighthouse.
Emma Carroll was a name completely unknown to me before reading this book but I have since found out she is a former teacher herself so that is a big tick in the empathy column as far as I’m concerned.
When Olive and her brother Cliff are evacuated to the countryside during war time, they have no idea they are about to become embroiled in an infuriating but compelling mystery.
First up, it should be noted that even from the point of view of a monkey man, Letters from the Lighthouse is properly for children. This is not a criticism of course, it is difficult as an adult to write something that can be enjoyed by an 8 year old but Emma Carroll’s sixth novel achieves that feat. That being said, the likeability of the characters and the sheer emotional force of the story ensured that I was never bored and the plotting has enough twists and turns to keep things interesting.
The obvious comparison would be Michael Morpurgo and his brand of bombastic WWII themed excellence. The difference is that Carroll keeps her story in the small towns and villages of England, rather than sending it off to war with a rifle. This makes for a homely and nostalgic book that children of all ages will surely enjoy. As well as grown men who have to wear a bib whilst eating.
I never would have read or even heard of Letters from the Lighthouse if not for being a teacher, but I’m glad that I did because it reminded me how rewarding it can be taking those first uneasy steps into literature as a podgy child (with Enid Blyton in my case).
A lovely book.