“So your family history is full of mystifying castles, Samurai warriors and priceless treasure! Are you serious?”
I always love to read something different. When I review a book, I’m always hoping for a unique plot or a bunch of characters unlike any other. This is especially true with children’s books! My next children’s book review ticked a lot of these boxes, proving that a kids book aimed at 10+ year olds can still leave a fully grown adult reader in awe.
The Lost Castle by Deborah Grant-Dudley follows a young boy, Cameron, on his travels to Japan. He soon meets another young boy, who becomes a good friend. Together, the decide to attempt the solving of a mystery – one that goes back in generations. Will they ever find out the truth?
To me, the prologue seemed a little full on for a children’s book at first. There were terms I didn’t really understand myself! However, I soon discovered that Deborah had included a glossary of unfamiliar terms at the back of the book to help her readers out – a helpful feature for a child (and me!) to learn from. They can not just learn about the story within the book’s pages, but they can also learn how to use a glossary properly, as well as learn some new terminology too. After getting the idea that the story might actually be too advanced for the age range, I began to warm to the idea, and saw many more positives than negatives. The chapters following the prologue are in a much more child friendly tone.
After the prologue, I noticed something different. That ticked the first box. The story is written in the present tense, and is done very well too. I always find it difficult to write in anything but 3rd person. If I do try anything else, I always seem to accidentally switch between the different tenses and time frames (and make a big old mess). Because of my struggle, I’ve always admired it when an author can pull off another tense.
It’s rare that you see a book in present tense and I’m so glad Deborah has done it! Not only does it give the book a unique quality, but it also gives a younger reader the opportunity to follow their favourite characters in real time. It will definitely add to their reading experience. The sentences throughout the story are quite abrupt and short, but they are easy to read and understand.
“Well, at least you learned a bit about the culture so you won’t accidentally offend anyone…”
Cameron is quite obviously excited about his trip to Tokyo. He loves that he has some sort of responsibility to keep his own belongings safe and to board the flight safely, with the help of his parents, of course. Deborah writes in a very clever way and injects the odd flurry of humour in her words at times. I really liked this – the humour is perfect for older kids to understand and she has obviously done her research into how children think and feel about certain situations. I think the kids of today will be able to relate a lot to different scenarios and Cameron’s thoughts and feelings.
The description of places and people was simply beautiful. I have a sneaking suspicion that Deborah has traveled to Japan in order to perfect her description, although I could be wrong! It really gave me, someone who has never traveled to the country, a picture perfect vision in my mind of what these places look like and how people act.
After a casual start to book, the middle of the book teaches the reader a lot about Japan through Cameron and Hayato’s conversations. They talk about Japan’s history and the mysterious story of Hayato’s ancestor. The pair quickly become good friends, and Hayato discusses the possibility of solving an intriguing mystery with Cameron. Of course, this excites Cameron – the pair soon decide to discover a little more of what Tokyo has to offer, and to try and answer some questions about Hayato’s family.
Together, the boys explore different areas of Tokyo. They put together different pieces of the puzzle in order to find out the truth of what happened to Hayato’s ancestor all those years ago. Cameron even agrees to go on more family trips with his parents, just so he can explore things further! It’s clear that Cameron is now really invested in finding some answers – it’s really heartwarming to see just how far he will go for his new friend. It’s actually quite saddening to think of how they will react when it’s time for Cameron and his family to leave for home after their trip.
“I wouldn’t mind changing my name to Cameron Mountbatten-Windsor and being mistaken for British royalty.”
There was the odd scene in the middle of the story that seemed a bit unnecessary to me. For example, at one point, Cameron mentioned that he’d like to go shopping. That quickly ended by him not seeing anywhere he wanted to go, so they left. Maybe there could have been a little more to these scenes to make them more worthwhile in the book, but then again, I suppose it’s only like putting in a filler chapter in a bigger novel.
As Cameron and his family go sight-seeing, the pieces of the puzzle finally start to fit together. Hayato and Cameron discuss their findings with one another as the story reaches a climactic end. Will Hayato finally find out what really happened to his ancestor? Or will the mystery continue to be just that, unsolved and leaving him forever wondering?
I enjoyed how Cameron and Hayato finally found the answers they’d been searching for all this time. It seems every significant piece of the story had been a crucial stepping stone to finding out what they needed to know about the past. I really liked reading about the Dojo, as well as when Cameron had a go at Samurai school with his parents. There seemed to be a lot of joy and brand new experiences for Cameron, which not only made his trip worthwhile, but also meant that his newly learned knowledge could help his friend, too.
After his trip, Cameron is trying to get back to normality, but finds it difficult when he misses his new friend. He feels eager to learn more things and see new places. Cameron’s postcard from Hayato was a really nice touch the end of the book, signifying that the pair will continue to keep in touch. It’s great to hear that they really had solved the mystery correctly!
“Cameron doesn’t hear. As far as he’s concerned, he is Samurai.”
The epilogue travels back in time and follows on from the prologue. I really liked this addition – it rounds the story off in a nice way, even though the language and detail is a little more advanced than the rest of the story. I feel like both the prologue and the epilogue would be good points for discussing when reading with a child and may even prompt further research about the history.
The Lost Castle is a lovely historical fiction book for older kids – the majority of which is easy to read and teaches children about Japanese history and friendship. The story is a great length and each chapter is short, covering a scene in just as much depth as it needs.
I really liked how this one can not just be enjoyed by children, but adults too, due to the historical nature of the book. From working in primary schools in the past, I could easily see some of the older kids really liking the story and enjoying Cameron and Hayato’s adventure!
Thanks so much to Deborah Grant-Dudley for allowing me to read and review The Lost Castle! You can purchase your own copy of the book on Amazon, available on Kindle or paperback. 📚 Follow Deborah over on Twitter to keep up to date!
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