Winter 1943. Teenagers Frank, Joseph and Stephen are Royal Navy recruits on their first mission at sea during the Second World War. Their ship is part of an Arctic Convoy sailing to Russia to deliver supplies to the Soviets. The convoys have to navigate treacherous waters, sailing through a narrow channel between the Arctic ice pack and German bases on the Norwegian coast. Faced with terrifying enemy attacks from both air and sea, as well as life-threatening cold and storms, will all three boys make it home again?
I totally loved this book. The vivid imagery, descriptive conditions, and peril capture your interest from the start.
I enjoyed that (as with other stories by Tom Palmer) the book is both educational and accurate, as well as entertaining to read. The page layout, font, and spacing that Barrington Stoke uses makes the book accessible to young people at various levels and stages of reading.
Throughout the story you feel bonded with Frank, experiencing his feelings through the excellent story-telling. Many times I felt like my heart was in my mouth, living through the times of panic and sadness with him.
I had not heard of the Arctic Convoys before, so I learnt a lot from reading. Young people will learn about the Royal Navy, the ships, the people on board and their lives, as well as communism and about the war in general with feelings of duty, pride, and patriotism. Deeper themes are present with death, grief, regret, and survivor guilt. These themes are addressed in an age-appropriate way so that we can learn and understand about them, not shying away from what can be a difficult topic for kids.
On a personal level I adore that the story is from Plymouth and Devonport Docks, my Grandfather was in the Royal Navy during the Second World War and based there. The mention of the Luftwaffe and the Plymouth Blitz brought back memories of family tales about my Grandfather diving under his bed during a bombing raid, luckily he survived there until he was rescued. The train journey through Exeter and Dawlish also brings the beautiful scenery on this stretch of track to mind as I have travelled along here many times. The location descriptions are spot on, which I admire and appreciate, it shows me just how much work and research Tom puts into the details in his books.
I look forward to recommending Arctic Star to all the students at school!
Thank you to Barrington Stoke for sending me the copy to review.