Thursday, 20 September 2012

The Messenger Bird

The Messenger Bird
Ruth Eastman
London, Scholastic, 2012, 245p

This was another of my Book Buzz books, sent by the Book Trust for the new Year 7s. The Book Buzz collection offers a variety of texts, from short reads to challenging novels. This book was somewhere in the middle, but the plot was incredible.

The Messenger Bird is full of secrets and codes and drama. Nathan and his friends race against time to save his dad from being prosecuted as a terrorist. They must follow a 70 year old trail around Bletchley Park in order to find the evidence to exonerate Nat's father. They are told to trust no one. They can't even comfort his mother and sister, by telling them about the trail. 

Nat's story is mirrored by the story of Lily Kenley, who was a code-breaker at Bletchley Park. Eastman draws on the conspiracy theory around the 1940 bombing of Coventry - some suspect that Churchill knew in advance about the bombing, but did not warn the people of Coventry in order to protect the Enigma code-breaking mission. 

In The Messenger Bird, Lily's father lived in Coventry, and she wanted solid evidence to convince him to evacuate. Just as Nat must save his father, Lily needs to save hers. 

Nat follows the trail left by Lily whilst trying to save her father. Lily leaves codes for Nat to break - Nat and his friends must think literally and laterally, and so must the reader. The book is written incredibly well, so that the reader feels involved in the secret, and wants to break the codes just as much as Nat does. I found myself competing with Nat to see if I could work out where the clues led before he did. 

I found this story a easy read, and incredibly gripping. I already had a little knowledge of Bletchley Park and the history of Coventry, but this story intrigued me to try and learn more. I hope it has the same effect upon its target audience, pushing them to become engaged in history through fact-based drama.

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