#45 Jack’s Secret Summer by Jack Ryder

Jack has been dreading the summer holidays – his dad works long hours, and so all he has to look forward to is an empty house. But when his boisterous neighbours, Bruno and Rocco, make it their mission to pull him into an adventure, his life will never be the same again.

Together they decide to explore the strange old house at the top of the hill, long abandoned and overgrown with ivy. But they soon discover the ivy hides more than just walls… the house is full of magical secrets, including a strange girl with no memory, who may hold the key to it all, if only she can remember…

Paperback | 224

Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books (28 May 2020)

Read: 8th June

Age Range: 7-9 year olds.

I know this is a debut novel, so I read it with an open mind and was ready and willing to be transported into another world for a while. The opening chapters of the book led me to believe that there was a powerful adventure to be had.

I found this very easy to read, the characters are well developed and bring joy and light to the book, the illustrations are beautiful, and the combined feel of the book makes you want to continue reading.

Jack was the main character and he brought with him a sense of responsibility, loyalty, weariness and adventure. It’s clear that Jack has a life that is different from normal, and he clearly loves his Dad, even though he sometimes cares for him as an adult should. It was clear to me that Jack was a character with a big heart but also a character who hadn’t yet found his moment to shine. He found it in this book. His willingness to adapt to the adventure to be had was warming as was his reserved nature in the thick of things.

Bruno and Rocco became a delightful duo that brought with them much humour and a driving force that pushed Jack to be more than he thought. For all their bickering and sibling arguments, it is clear that the two love and care for each other and over the summer, have formed a strong bond with Jack.

Blossom was an interesting character with her memory loss and her place of living. I can see how she would be a compelling character to an audience of 9-11-year-olds. For me, I very quickly saw through her exterior and realised the importance of her character and who she actually was, and that knowledge did spoil the book for me a little. However, Blossom is such a driven character and shows great positivity in the face of despair and has such a kind-hearted nature that it is impossible not to warm to her character.

It was easy to visualise this because the words formed such a pretty picture. It was easy for me to work with the words and create a vivid picture of what was happening.

This was 100% an impulse buy for me and I got it from Waterstones when I was ordering some other books that I wanted. I always try to read debut novels with a completely open mind because I want to be able to discover the secrets of the book without having knowledge that could lead me to judge it unfairly. There were quite a lot of elements in this book that had to come together to make a fully formed picture. The reason I’m giving this book 4 stars instead of 5 is because I worked out the core of the book by chapter 8 and that took some of the enjoyment out of reading. I don’t know whether it was intentional to discover that fact that early on or whether I just realised it reading with an adult brain, but with the knowledge I had, reading the rest of the book felt average to me because I knew how it would progress.

There were still some surprises and moments that I enjoyed. The cliffhanger was unexpected but the events leading up to it were known to me. I had been thinking that this was a book I would give away but now I find myself wanting to keep it and read the following book when it comes out in March 2021.

Working out a key detail of a book before you’re supposed to is a curse for a bookworm to handle. It’s why I predominantly read crime thrillers or psychological thriller, as they’re harder to guess. However, I will always have a soft spot of children’s books and this one was a good read, despite my informative brain. I liked how the characters came together from different walks of life and through each other became better versions of themselves. I enjoyed the magical element because it felt different and creative. I liked the sensitive and emotional bits because, with a character cast of mostly males, it made their characters seem three dimensional and well rounded. As the book closed on so many question marks, I am interested to see what the second book has in store for the readers and what answers I’ll gain from reading it.

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