BOOK REVIEWS

The Sands of Shark Island (School Ship Tobermory) Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2017-07-20 
Review Score: 4 out of 5 star From 0 user ratings
ISBN:0399554017
LANGUAGE:English

"This book follows School Ship Tobermory, though it's not necessary to have read that first as McCall Smith gives all the background necessary, even for the ongoing inside-stories about the stowaway and about the bully trio.

The main theme, however, is the visit to the Caribbean where an old seaman's trunk, and his tale about modern-day pirates, becomes interlinked with a boy they meet there, whose father disappeared a few years ago. A mystery and adventure all together.

McCall Smith "breaks the rules" of novel writing. Aspiring writers are told to "show, not tell" - and one can understand why. So many manage to get some boring bits past their editors (or supposedly truthful readers if they're self-published) where they tell things the reader needs to know (again, supposedly). But McCall Smith gets away with it because he has a lovely manner of speaking directly to the reader. It's as if he's in the room telling the story, and just pauses from the narrative for a little while to let the reader know a little bit of information. Beautifully done. And because this happens throughout it's simply a part of the whole.

So, this is another nice adventure in a great setting.
" said.

"Read & reviewed for the Bookbag here: http://www.thebookbag.co.uk/reviews/i...

The school ship Tobermory is off on another adventure! Well, I suppose really I should say it's open for another term of school, but this is a school unlike any other, so really, it is an adventure. Ben and Fee are back on board with their friends, and this time the ship is setting sail for the Caribbean. There are dangers to be faced along the way, and of course a band of pirates to be dealt with too! But in amongst the excitement are also issues recognisable to all children, such as bullying, forming friendships, and learning new things.

I enjoyed the first book in this series, so I was looking forward to seeing how Ben and Fee were getting on. One thing I really like about these stories is that the children make mistakes, and sometimes they are quite drastic mistakes! They get things wrong but, delightfully, they keep on trying to do better. I like their imperfections, as it makes them seem more realistic as characters, but I also like the way they deal with their mistakes, accepting the errors and then acknowledging that they will do better in the future, an important life-skill to learn! I also really like the discussions around friendship, or general day to day life that crop up in the book. In the same way that Mma Ramotswe makes life observations that ring so very true, or make you think about things a little differently, there are times when the characters here, or sometimes the author, make an observation that again, is something worth remembering. For example, Ben and Fee discuss how awkward it must be if you end up with two friends who don't like each other, and Fee ponders how you might then have to have morning friends and afternoon friends, so as to alleviate the issue. I also like the way the two characters think about who all their friends are, and their differing strengths and characteristics, for example, how someone's kindness is perhaps their most important strength.

My one small issue with the book was a scene where a group of the children are on land, in Scotland, and hiding from some bad people. They discover a storm drain, and they all run in there to hide. Having lived next to a large storm drain I know, from repeated warnings, that they can be extremely dangerous and that as children we were told never to go inside to play or hide. I think the mother in me was just a little worried at the ease with which these children slip inside, without any thought of danger, which might seem a little silly considering that in other parts of the book they are climbing the rigging or diving from the mast! Still, it was something that worried me.

There aren't any scary parts to the story, or rather I should say that all the action and adventure is dealt with in a very steady, secure way, so although you feel the excitement, you also feel confident that things will be okay, so this is a good read for children who are a little more timid but want a story to stretch them further. It has all the elements of a boarding school story, but with the interesting twist of being set at sea. There are some rather nasty bullies on board, of course, and interestingly they often do get away with their bad behaviour, as they're clever enough to bully without leaving evidence, much to the children's dismay. Still, at the end of this story there is a little joy for the readers involving some quicksand, so the bullies don't entirely get off scot-free!

The illustrations by Iain McIntosh are very well done, with some smaller character pictures, and then other full page panel images, picking out key scenes from the story. They make the books more accessible for those who are making the move onto longer chapter books but who miss having pictures to help interpret the story, and they also just add a little something extra generally, helping readers know what a moray eel looks like, or what a sextant is. His illustrations have a distinctive style, and they work very well with the story. This is a good book to share as a bedtime story with a chapter a night, but is also good for those building in confidence with their own reading, to curl up with and enjoy by themselves.
" said.

"This book follows School Ship Tobermory, though it's not necessary to have read that first as McCall Smith gives all the background necessary, even for the ongoing inside-stories about the stowaway and about the bully trio.

The main theme, however, is the visit to the Caribbean where an old seaman's trunk, and his tale about modern-day pirates, becomes interlinked with a boy they meet there, whose father disappeared a few years ago. A mystery and adventure all together.

McCall Smith "breaks the rules" of novel writing. Aspiring writers are told to "show, not tell" - and one can understand why. So many manage to get some boring bits past their editors (or supposedly truthful readers if they're self-published) where they tell things the reader needs to know (again, supposedly). But McCall Smith gets away with it because he has a lovely manner of speaking directly to the reader. It's as if he's in the room telling the story, and just pauses from the narrative for a little while to let the reader know a little bit of information. Beautifully done. And because this happens throughout it's simply a part of the whole.

So, this is another nice adventure in a great setting.
" said.

"Read & reviewed for the Bookbag here: http://www.thebookbag.co.uk/reviews/i...

The school ship Tobermory is off on another adventure! Well, I suppose really I should say it's open for another term of school, but this is a school unlike any other, so really, it is an adventure. Ben and Fee are back on board with their friends, and this time the ship is setting sail for the Caribbean. There are dangers to be faced along the way, and of course a band of pirates to be dealt with too! But in amongst the excitement are also issues recognisable to all children, such as bullying, forming friendships, and learning new things.

I enjoyed the first book in this series, so I was looking forward to seeing how Ben and Fee were getting on. One thing I really like about these stories is that the children make mistakes, and sometimes they are quite drastic mistakes! They get things wrong but, delightfully, they keep on trying to do better. I like their imperfections, as it makes them seem more realistic as characters, but I also like the way they deal with their mistakes, accepting the errors and then acknowledging that they will do better in the future, an important life-skill to learn! I also really like the discussions around friendship, or general day to day life that crop up in the book. In the same way that Mma Ramotswe makes life observations that ring so very true, or make you think about things a little differently, there are times when the characters here, or sometimes the author, make an observation that again, is something worth remembering. For example, Ben and Fee discuss how awkward it must be if you end up with two friends who don't like each other, and Fee ponders how you might then have to have morning friends and afternoon friends, so as to alleviate the issue. I also like the way the two characters think about who all their friends are, and their differing strengths and characteristics, for example, how someone's kindness is perhaps their most important strength.

My one small issue with the book was a scene where a group of the children are on land, in Scotland, and hiding from some bad people. They discover a storm drain, and they all run in there to hide. Having lived next to a large storm drain I know, from repeated warnings, that they can be extremely dangerous and that as children we were told never to go inside to play or hide. I think the mother in me was just a little worried at the ease with which these children slip inside, without any thought of danger, which might seem a little silly considering that in other parts of the book they are climbing the rigging or diving from the mast! Still, it was something that worried me.

There aren't any scary parts to the story, or rather I should say that all the action and adventure is dealt with in a very steady, secure way, so although you feel the excitement, you also feel confident that things will be okay, so this is a good read for children who are a little more timid but want a story to stretch them further. It has all the elements of a boarding school story, but with the interesting twist of being set at sea. There are some rather nasty bullies on board, of course, and interestingly they often do get away with their bad behaviour, as they're clever enough to bully without leaving evidence, much to the children's dismay. Still, at the end of this story there is a little joy for the readers involving some quicksand, so the bullies don't entirely get off scot-free!

The illustrations by Iain McIntosh are very well done, with some smaller character pictures, and then other full page panel images, picking out key scenes from the story. They make the books more accessible for those who are making the move onto longer chapter books but who miss having pictures to help interpret the story, and they also just add a little something extra generally, helping readers know what a moray eel looks like, or what a sextant is. His illustrations have a distinctive style, and they work very well with the story. This is a good book to share as a bedtime story with a chapter a night, but is also good for those building in confidence with their own reading, to curl up with and enjoy by themselves.
" said.

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