The Lost Child's Quest
Tia is an orphan. She has lived in an orphanage, looked after by the kindly Ms Davidson, since she was a baby. She knows nothing about her parents and her background is a mystery. All she has is her name: Tia Hemyke, and a set of 13 treasures that were left with her when she was abandoned at the orphanage nine years before. A few days before Tia is about to finally be adopted she receives a visitor who says he has knowledge of her past. Unfortunately, this visitor only seems interested in the treasures that Tia has, including a silver pendant she wears around her neck. After a lucky escape from the mysterious Mr Silverman, Tia is finally adopted by the Trevelyan family who take her to her new home at Stormhaven. Here she learns what it means to belong to be loved and also where her adventures really begin.
I really enjoyed reading this debut middle grade story by James Haddell. It is a story with real heart. Tia is a wonderful character who is easy to empathise with. Her new adopted family have real charm and it is hard not to like them; from her new sister 'Meghan' who is an over enthusiastic chatterbox to her new grandfather 'Grandpa Locryn' who is the local priest and has a real twinkle in his eye, there is a whole host of characters who form around Tia to become a loving support network. Her new parents too both clearly love and care for their new daughter and all of this adds a real warmth to the story.
As well as her family, Tia also meets more new people at her new school. I have to say, I really loved reading the school chapters and I think I would have loved to go to the school myself as a child. There is a real sense of adventure about the school and its teachers; the setting (the Castle) affords it a sort of magical charm. Tia meets her new best friend 'Pasco' at the school who, as an introvert, provides a great counter balance to her over enthusiastic extrovert sister.
A lot of the story seems to be about setting the scene and establishing the characters that surround Tia, there are gentle teases along the way pointing at the mystery of Tia's past and her mysterious treasures and these clues all carefully build towards the conclusion of the story where the pace dramatically increases and leads to a very exciting conclusion.
One of the things I like about this story is that there is a passion for history and learning burning through clearly. The family are passionate about history and archaeology as are the teachers at the school and the historical treasures and and events mentioned in the story are rooted in real history. I love it when books do this; it makes me want to read around the story and find out about the history that inspired it. In this case it is history linked to the Arthurian legends and I found it fascinating.
Another thing I liked about the story was the way it represented Tia as an adopted child. She gradually comes to trust her new family and through their support gain confidence in herself. I can imagine that other adopted children would be able to identify with the feelings that Tia goes through as she comes to accept her adopted family.
I think this book would appeal to lots of children and I shall definitely have a copy in my own class library. There are lots of cross curricular links possible for those teachers who would want to use it in lessons as well. I would recommend it for year 4 and above.
I finished the book being thoroughly enthralled and wanting to read more. I loved this first glimpse at answers to Tia's mystery and really want to know what will happen next. This is a skilfully written mystery story with just a sprinkle of magic. I am really glad to know that James has more planned for Tia and I for one will enjoy following her future adventures.