Martin and Charlie are on the journey of their lives. They are also in BIG trouble. They have snuck out of their house to travel 421 miles from Preston to Cornwall – hoping to see the dolphin that visits the harbour there. But that’s not the only reason they are going. That’s a secret. A momentous one. And once it’s revealed, there’ll be no going back…
Charlie and Me: 421 miles from home is one of the best middle-grade books I have read in recent times. I purchased it from the Book Fair in my son’s school driven by the attractive blue colour cover page and the blurb which promised adventure and a secret to be disclosed.
The fact that the story begins from Preston, the city I live in, and its familiar lanes established the book’s connect with me right away. The boys, Martin and Charlie, share a regular sibling bond. Martin is 13 and Charlie is 3 years younger. Charlie was born prematurely, has been through several medical appointments & emergencies and needs special care. He is physically weak but has the nerves to drive his elder brother, Martin, crazy in a good way with his innocent hilarious antics and in a worse way with his tantrum and meltdowns. Martin plays the elder brother part with maturity. Their equation on the train rides, the situations and their encounter with the police and strangers ensured my interest not waning off even for a moment. The inclusion of the mental health aspect of the characters and their inner struggles gave the real-life touches to the characters.
Mark Lowery’s style of storytelling is simply brilliant and powerful. The story is fast-paced fluidly going back and forth in time – the past time is about the boys’ previous year’s holiday in Cornwall with their parents and the present tells their current journey to Cornwall. The distinct chapters dealing with the past and the present work best for the narrative. Also, Martin is a budding poet whose poems are set at the beginning of the various stages of the journey and are used to set the mood of that particular stage.
In case you want to catch a glimpse of one of his poems, I have done a separate post on it for the hashtag Book Bytes. The poem is titled ‘Happiness’ and you can read it by clicking here.
By the time I reached the end and the BIG secret got revealed, I was left emotional and teary-eyed. The ending did not just happen suddenly. The tone of the story kept building on gradually moving from being light to serious and yet I didn’t expect the story to end in the way it did. And, this is precisely the reason why this book is a brilliant piece of literary work. I took almost a day to linger on with the characters after I completed the book and also to recover from the overwhelming emotions it stirred inside me.
I do not rate the books in my reviews or give them stars but for this one, I can easily give 10 out of 5 stars.
Author – Mark Lowery
Release Year – 2018
Publisher – Picadilly Press
Age group – 10 -12 years (Middle-grade book)
Available to buy from Amazon – click on the links below:
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