Our theme of Sail Away in a Story brings to mind so many stories that could sweep you out to sea. Author Clare Weze shares insight into her new book and she then recommends some of her favourites to “get swept away in”.
Books to get swept away in
My second children’s book, THE STORM SWIMMER introduces Ginika, who is desperate to return to her home in London, which has been lost during a traumatic eviction. Her grandparents’ boarding house by the sea is full of strangers, and she misses her parents, the city and her old life. Then one wild and stormy day she sees somebody in the sea – in the shallows right by the shore – who looks very much at home there. Too much at home. When he disappears, it isn’t to come ashore.
Meanwhile Scarlett – her tricky and troublesome new friend – suspects that Ginika has something secret going on, and she’s not the kind of person to be left out of anything. The two halves of Ginika’s new life collide. Keeping her discovery secret will test all Ginika’s ingenuity, and take her on a dangerous quest.
Heaven Eyes, by David Almond
My recommendations for books to get swept away in begins with Heaven Eyes, because right from the start, the main characters are building a raft to get themselves far away from the children’s care home they live in. They’re searching for families of their own, longing to properly belong somewhere, but become stranded in an odd and eerie no-man’s land. Instead of the adventure they were expecting, they find a strange girl and her scary grandfather. Of course, the girl becomes the adventure, as the stopping off points on the way to our own adventures often do.
This girl, though, has had a unique start in life, and her unusual physiology triggers wonder, fear and awe in the three companions. The watery setting becomes muddier as the story goes on, but we never lose the feeling that the trickling, flowing, cold dark river is close by, beside and even underneath us.
Voyage of the Sparrowhawk, by Natasha Farrant
This book is almost a literal definition of being swept away! I love canals – they give me the sense of a different world running alongside ours, and that’s where this book begins. Set 100 years ago, there are orphans, dogs and a boat journey from the canals to the Thames, across the English Channel and all the way to France. The author has connections with France, and the scenes set in the towns and countryside there are very authentic.
There’s plenty of peril, especially when we reach the sea. I had to ration myself to a couple of pages at a time, as I was sure someone was going to get swept overboard. But there are calm waters too, and that gently drifting canal atmosphere really comes across. The children face treacherous adults as well as adorable ones, and at the heart of the story, there’s a moving quest to find lost loved ones.
Where the River Takes Us, by Lesley Parr
A river quest, by characters in dire straits. Set during the miners’ strikes of the 1970s, this book melds money worries with grief and the search for a legendary wild beast. Four friends set out to follow the river north, bag a photo of the beast and claim a much-needed reward, and the reader has their heart in their mouth alongside them. The 1970s are brought to life with everyday touches, including plenty of sweets and snacks. And the river! You can hear it rushing along in the background as you read. All the sights, sounds and smells are there.
The Water Horse, by Dick King-Smith
This story merges my love of sea life and biological intrigue with my interest in the deep and often heart-rending bonds between humans and animals. An egg washes up on a beach after a stormy night. It’s found by children, who take it home, and the sea creature that hatches is tiny and cute at first, if strange – it has a horse-like head and a crocodile’s tail. But then it grows, very quickly, and soon, the family have a problem on their hands.
There’s timeless magic in searching the beach after a storm to see what’s washed in. Theillustrations of stormy seas are magical. And a time-reveal near the end pulled my heart-strings into spirals.
Orphans of the Tide, by Struan Murray
The opening of this book is one of the most striking I’ve ever come across. Regardless of what came after it, I knew I’d already been swept off to somewhere new and unpredictable, and I can still see that scene without reopening the book. It’s not for the squeamish: asurprised and bedraggled little boy is freed from the body of a beached whale. The fact that the whale ended up on a rooftop is a detail that fills me with every kind of writerly delight (and sympathy for both whale and boy!). Everything about that opening evokes powerful images and concepts: the city built on the edge of a sea that keeps trying to take it back; the half-drowned houses; fish and sea creatures washed up into improbable nooks and crannies; and Ellie, the ingenious young inventor.
I would love to be an inventor like Ellie, and living at the edge of a wild, capricious sea would be amazing (for at least a couple of days!). This book is twisty, action-packed, and full of secrets.
Clare Weze was raised in London and Yorkshire and has British and Nigerian heritage. She writes for adults and children and has always written around her day job, starting out as a hairdresser in London’s West End, then moving on to a science degree, postgraduate studies and work in the fields of biomedical and environmental research. The Lightning Catcher is her debut novel for children, Clare also contributed a story to Happy Here the anthology of stories from 10 Black British writers and illustrators.
The Storm Swimmer by Clare Weze is available now published Bloomsbury Children’s Books.