Welcome to the second entry in our Lockdown Library! This one is aimed at slightly older children than part 1 (which you can see here), though younger children will likely still enjoy reading along too!
When Lance and his Yr6 classmates board the coach for their school residential trip to Crater Lake Activity Centre, little do they realise that they will end up fighting for their survival.
With no one to greet them on their arrival, it doesn’t take them long to realise that something isn’t right – and as night falls, things become a lot more sinister. But it’s not only Crater Lake that has secrets, and the students need to work out exactly who they can trust…
Crater Lake is a brilliant sci-fi/horror story (with a good dollop of humour), that starts ramping up the suspense from Chapter 1 when their coach is brought to a sudden stop by a bloodstained man standing in the road.
Lance, Chets, Katja and Big Mak are a close group of friends who recognise each other’s strengths but who all have hidden secrets, together with Adrianne who makes it quite clear she is not like everyone assumes.
Add into this mix Trent, who is a typical bully and big mouth but also Head Boy, and you have a range of characters that any child can relate to and immediately recognise from their own Yr6 class.
I really liked the way the children interacted and what they learnt about each other along the way, and I found the story itself quite gripping! The balance between scary and funny can be somewhat difficult to maintain, but Killick manages to pitch it right on that line.
The kids’ daring and determination in ensuring that they survive, combined with their desire to save others was quite refreshing, and I was willing them to succeed as they attempted to overcome obstacles in a situation that was far beyond their control.
I have always enjoyed a good murder mystery and this one certainly fits the bill!
On the first page we’re told not just who’s been murdered, but the date and time the body was found; this wonderful level of detail runs throughout the story, enabling you to feel total involved in the investigation from beginning to end.
High-Rise Mystery is a very modern murder mystery set at “The Tri”, an estate of high-rise flats. The story romps along at a breakneck pace helped by the short (~5 page) chapters and the high-octane energy of the detective duo, sisters Nik and Norva Armstrong.
As an arrest is made, the girls are under pressure to solve their first actual crime – and when everything they know comes under threat, everything suddenly becomes very real.
The sisters are quite different – Nik is very scientific, whereas Norva trusts her feelings more, and there is a lot of humour in their interactions as a result. Nik is the narrator, and her tendency to always remain logical does mean that she sometimes misses more subtle clues, which is a nice touch. She also keeps notes on her phone during the story, which are then interspersed throughout the book and help to keep the feeling of constant progress; a clever technique that I thoroughly enjoyed.
I also like the way that we are introduced to some of the other residents of The Tri over the course of the story, allowing us to get a real sense of the community that lives there without ever becoming overwhelmed, but it’s the girls themselves that keep you enticed.
As the first book in a new series, we were thoroughly engaged throughout, and can’t wait to see what Nik and Norva get involved in next!
Flight for Freedom: The Wetzel Family’s Daring Escape from East Germany
Now for something very different!
‘Flight for Freedom’ is a picture book for older children that tells the true story of the Wetzel and Strelzyk families’ struggle to escape from East Germany in 1979.
I feel that this is the perfect medium to tell this story as the visuals are much more “immediate” than reading text, and can engage a wider audience including younger readers.
At the start, the illustrations are clear and precise and, together with some brief text, give you a feel for the oppression of living in East Germany at the time. Later in the book, with so much action taking place at night, the illustrations use a dark palate to brilliantly convey the sense of having to keep things secret and hidden.
The struggle and sheer inventiveness of the families is unbelievable, and you can really feel their tension, fear and uncertainty throughout the telling.
At the back of the book are details about how the balloon was made and kept afloat, together with photographs of the actual balloon and gondola used.
Knowing that the author interviewed Günter Wetzel and got his story first-hand after 34 years of silence, makes the story feel even more personal and really helps communicate the truth of this incredible tale. I feel that this is a very important part of history; a struggle for freedom that can easily be overlooked, and should be more widely known. Hopefully this book will go some way towards making that happen.