The Extraordinary Adventures of Alice Tonks

Publisher: Rock the Boat

11-year-old Alice is quite nervous when she starts at Pebblewood, the formidable coastal boarding school that her late mum and her beloved gran both went to as girls.

Alice is very conscious of feeling different. For starters, she is autistic, although at least she has learnt various ways of masking her autistic behaviour and traits to try to avoid standing out too much. But now she finds she has a rather more extraordinary (and unrelated) difference to adjust to. When a seagull speaks to her, she discovers to her astonishment that she is a ‘switcher’ – a human who can communicate with animals! And it appears that they need her help. Something very disturbing is going on – animals in the vicinity are inexplicably disappearing. It seems someone is snatching them – but who and why? With the help of two schoolmates, Alice must face danger head-on as she sets out to solve the mystery.

This is an enthralling read with a delightful protagonist. And there’s a fabulous wider cast of human and animal characters who are fully dimensional, distinctive and memorable. Plus there is a timeless backdrop of boarding school life that readers will love. Autism, friendship issues and bullying are all treated in a convincing, relatable and nuanced way as Emily learns how, when and who to trust. The book also touches subtly on themes such as living with parental depression and loss.

Dormitories, night-time jaunts, shady secrets, sea caves, dusty school libraries, smugglers and talking cats, all packaged in an own-voices ‘whodunnit’… what’s not to love?  

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