It is always exciting to read a second book by an author, especially if you have really enjoyed their first book. I was lucky enough to be part of the blog tour for Richard’s first book in August 2021 and he wrote a short entry for me, all about his influences and where he writes. He spoke about the outline that he was writing for his second book, so it is fantastic to see all of his hard work come to fruition. You can see this first blog entry by searching”Peculiar tale of the Tentacle Boy”
The hero in this story is called Caspar and he has a dream that he can swim the channel before his 12th birthday. The only problem is that he is now more than 11 years old and his parents ban him from going anywhere near the water. Despite this he finds ways of swimming, whether it is in the local ponds or even the water feature at the shopping centre. However things are about to change dramatically; following a freak accident at the local supermarket both of Caspar’s parents end up in hospital (they were run over by a giant wheel of cheese!) and Caspar is sent to the seaside town of Corallium, where his unknown grandmother lives. This is not the last of the surprises that he comes across in the next few days. Corallium is the home of his absolute hero, Beryl the Bazooka and he not only meets her, but finds out that she was his grandma’s wife, until they fell out. Then Caspar discovers that sea swimming is very different from being in a small pond and after he nearly drowns, Beryl volunteers to train him. The record that Caspar is trying to break has stood for 60 years and every person under the age of 12 who has attempted the crossing, has been struck down by a ‘curse’; so will our hero overcome all the obstacles in his way? With the help of his new friend Wynn, he is determined to follow his destiny.
Underpinning this whole story is the enormous secret that Caspar has been hiding for all of his life, as his parents are scared he will be treated as a freak; both of his feet are webbed, with skin between each of his toes. The question is whether this has anything to do with the ancient legend that Corallium was once a city under the sea. This is a story about keeping secrets and the impact that it can have on relationships and also how we feel about ourselves. This very much applies to the relationship between his grandmother Ida and Beryl, but it also is central to the way Caspar, his parents and grandma also interact. We have a multilayered story where the events of the past still impact on the lives of people today and it is so sad to see that some characters are trying to hang on to past glories, rather than trying to support a new generation in their attempts. The author has managed to combine both humour (in the guise of Wynn’s archaeologist father) and pathos, particularly when we see the anguish of those who have failed to achieve their dreams because of the so-called ‘curse’. However, the ending is particularly uplifting and I gave a quiet cheer as people finally admitted to things they had kept hidden and then discovered that they were not alone, in fact they were part of a community that had been hiding in plain sight. I have read this book twice and it is one of those enchanting stories that you know you will go back to in the future. Congratulations to Richard on this lovely book.
https://www.richard-pickard.com/bio to find out more about the author and his work.
- Publisher : Chicken House; 1st edition (11 May 2023)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 336 pages
- ISBN-13 : 978-1913696726
- Reading age : 9 – 12 years