For ages 8+
Having been already blessed with an outrageously avid reader in my 10yr old daughter, I’m excited about my younger 6yr old son’s reading journey. He’s quite an advanced reader and has also enjoyed a number of middle grade books read to him at bedtime. However, the day I look forward to is when I see his nose in a book that he can’t put down, and this is one such book that’d be perfect. It’s an ideal heartwarming adventure for more advanced younger readers at either 6 or 7, but lovely for readers aged 8+.
Although I don’t have a final published copy, only a proof advance copy from Puffin, the cover beckoned me from my reading pile! The gorgeous illustrations by Laura Catalán are vibrant purples and oranges, sparkling with flames and magic dust, and in the centre of the cover the most adorable image of a very happy boy cuddling a very cute fox cub with the words ‘Find Your Inner Fire’ - what a happy and inspirational scene. Text on the pages is larger than in most middle grades and there are plenty of engaging illustrations throughout the book. Oh… and one of author Newbery’s inspirations for the story is his lifelong passion for Pokémon! We are Pokémon crazy in our house!
About the story
The story starts in Wales, home to Year 6 boy, Charlie Challinor. Charlie is out at the park, engaged in a game of stone hunting (we've all been there!) and gets a fright when he encounters a rather moody goose at the pond. Retreating to the safety of his garden treehouse he awaits his BFFs Lippy and Roo. Out of the three friends, it is Charlie who hasn’t quite found his fire yet. He’s a bit of a nervy kid, which is unfortunately an invitation to school bullies Will and Zack. Not only does Charlie have them to deal with, but he’s also thinking ahead to the move to secondary school at the end of the school year, and he’s feeling really anxious about it.
Charlie is adopted and lives at home with his dads. Homelife is peachy, until one day Dad and Pa sit him down to let him know that they’d like to adopt another baby, which means that if all goes well with the social worker, Charlie is going to be a big brother. The anxiety! If Charlie can’t even face up to the Will and Zack, how can he be a big brother?
One day, whilst Charlie is finding the best hiding place ever for his stone at Bryncastell, a local castle overlooking the town, something incredible happens! A magic portal appears behind the ivy to reveal a rather desperate traveller from another world in need of help! A shape shifting beast called the Grendilock is trying to get hold of the last Firefox and here it is… needing to be rescued… by Charlie (the boy who finds life scary enough already), until the stranger can come back to this world to collect it again. [Firefox 101… it’s a fox, but with magical fur that can combust if it gets excited, afraid or angry… not quite the sort of thing you can just hang out with unnoticed… and it’s a cub, so pretty unpredictable.] How is Charlie going to keep the Firefox a secret and safe? What a huge responsibility!
Well, it turns out that actually, Charlie is rather brilliant at taking charge in a crisis. He manages to take care of the Firefox, he has now named Cadno (the Welsh word for ‘fox’) even smuggling him into school with him… ah but there has been a slight incident with the washing out on the line in the garden at home, but thankfully Charlie’s Dad is a fireman!
Charlie and Cadno become inseparable buddies, perhaps just what Charlie needs to help him build up his confidence. Eventually things ‘hot’ up when something sudden happens to the social worker. She has been unexpectedly replaced by a very pink and odd looking ‘lady’ social worker sniffing around their house, asking some very unusual questions that don’t seem to be terribly related to adopting a baby. Could it be the Grendilock in disguise? Charlie realises he’s out of his depth and realises that bottling all this up isn’t going to keep him and Cadno safe any more. Time to reveal what’s been going on to his friends. Together they all become a protective force for Cadno and set off to battle the Grendilock once and for all. Once Charlie’s parents realise what’s been going on all along, they’re so proud, relieved, and impressed at how he has managed to survive, but as always like all adults, they would have preferred a heads up on the Cadno situation way earlier! Right?!?!
Many children are going to identify with Charlie and Cadno, the cutest pet ever!
Thoroughly enjoyed this heartwarming story. Such a strong family unit filled with love, humour and support with loyal friends that enable Charlie to find his inner fire after all.
About the creators
Lee Newbery (author)
Lee Newbery lives with his husband, son and two dogs in a seaside town in West Wales. By day, he helps vulnerable people look for jobs and gain new skills, and by night, he sits down at his laptop to write. Lee enjoys adventuring, drinking ridiculous amounts of tea and giving his dogs a good cuddle - or a cwtch as they say in Wales.
Laura Catalán (illustrator)
Laura Catalán is a children’s books illustrator who loves a good story, one that grabs you from the neck and doesn’t let you go until you finish it. She has illustrated about a dozen fiction books and plenty of educational material for Spanish, UK and US publishers.
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Publication date: 3 March 2022
*Puffin Books provided me with a review copy of 'The Last Firefox'.
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