My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Oh it’s taken me too long to get to this book.
I first heard about Olivia’s First Term a fair while ago, reading descriptions and reviews which referenced the glorious heights of Ballet Schools (coughpetrovaruleseverythingcough) and I thought – I need to read those books. And at last, I have, and I can confirm for you that there is much joy in this book.
Olivia’s First Term is the first of a healthy series, which sees Olivia and her sister Eel being taken to meet their grandmother, Alicia. Olivia has never met Alicia who blames Olivia’s father for the death of her daughter. This estrangement is brought to a hasty and painful cessation when Jack, a talented tightrope walker, brings Olivia and Eel to the school to meet Alicia. Jack is poverty stricken and needs a home for the girls whilst he plans the greatest money-making stunt of his career.
It’s a glorious premise and one torn from the pages of classic children’s literature tradition. There’s elements of Ballet Shoes here but also Sadlers Wells, A Little Princess and even Malory Towers and a little bit of the thematic overtones of The Secret Garden (girl finds place in world, discovers who she is and that she has value, etc, etc).
Olivia’s First Term is another book which confirms to me my suspicions about the healthy UK Middle Grade scene at present; it is good, and there are good and great books out there marking their presence on the literary landscape. I love how this book has something quite classic feeling to it and yet mixes in a Britain’s Got Talent-esque stage show and a (almost moustache-twirling) bad girl villain. It’s a joyous thing and rather lovely, and I’m pleased I got to it at long last.
And in addition to all of that, I have a new addition for my list of children’s books which feature Gifted and Talented Characters(a pithy title, there, I know) spreadsheet. Check it out!