Clifftoppers: The Frost Castle Adventure by Fleur Hitchcock

Clifftoppers: The Frost Castle adventure by Fleur Hitchcock

I’m a huge fan of Fleur’s writing and especially this Clifftoppers series which I have been following eagerly since the beginning and am hoping desperately that Nosy Crow order another ‘year’ of adventures with the cousins visiting their grandparents’ farm every holiday break.

This is perfect read for snowy weather but especially the Twixmas period, set in the break between Christmas and ‘back to school’ as the cousins stay with their grandparents again after Christmas whilst their parents have to return to work.

With snow, sledging and a dash of pantomime weaves in amongst mystery, scandal and danger this is a fitting wintery finale to a great little series of mystery adventures with a nostalgic feel.

Cover illustrated by Tom Clohosy Cole

It’s the Christmas Holidays and whilst sledging the Clifftopper children witness a car accident. Upon helping the driver they discover it’s famous actress Martha Darcy-Court on her way to star in the local Christmas production at Frost Castle as a family favour, but she has been beset by trouble since the death of her uncle with break-ins, sabotage and now a car accident.

Escorting the actress to safety at Frost Castle leads to the children being roped in to the production and into a thrilling mystery of ghosts, secret passages and danger when Martha’s inherited locket suddenly goes missing.

“I want to know more about Martha and her burglaries, and I’d love to find the ghostly passages, and we won’t know any of it if we stay at Clifftoppers.”

I’m in continuous awe that Fleur has never read The Famous Five when I dive into the beautifully layered and woven Clifftoppers stories.

This is the perfect series to recommend to people who know their child would like something like The Secret Seven or Famous Five but don’t know what modern authors to pick and especially those who may prefer a more modern mindset with better female representation and a more diverse cast.

While their grandparents watched the news, full of apple pie and cream, they crept downstairs l. Ava opened the front door and they slipped out into the cold.

The series has those magical touches that make the reader all glowy, for the nostalgic fan there is a glorious ‘lashings of ginger beer’ feel with constant references to treats and indulgences such as picnics, cream teas and cakes and manages through its rural setting combined with grandparental encouragement to enjoy the outdoors unsupervised achieves that feel of freedom and in classical children’s literature without it feeling forced and even the lack of dependency on modern technology is achieved thanks in part to the realities of poor rural signal.

To my absolute delight, in fact in The Frost Castle Adventure Fleur flips the script and the children are almost constantly accompanied by adults in the rehearsing of a play at the Castle, use the internet to research the players and yet still have the freedom to sleuth and opportunity to use their wits amongst the hustle and bustle. Such a flip on the usual aims of middle grade adventures.

This series and Fleur’s writing is utterly modern, relatable and just gritty enough not to be scary to the child reader.

He didn’t mind any of it- it was wonderful to be in the countryside with his cousins at New Year.

Absent is the upper middle class, misogynistic, racist tones of ‘classic books’ and in is a diverse cast of children who have different day to day lives and experiences, different family home situations but are united in friendship and fun every school holiday when they are sent off to stay with their grandparents in a rural coastal village. With so many families spread apart by work, ambitions and lifestyles these snatches of companionship would resonate with many as much as the friendship dynamics of the children would do so with families that are fortuitous to live nearby and be close knit.

Fleur is a masterful crime writer for young people, which in itself is an incredible feat to find that balance of engaging and exciting crime thrillers that are both appropriate for a child to read and get their mind boggling to work out the culprit can be difficult.

No one wants to pull back the curtain on the dark side of the world to children but equally we know children have been thrilled by crime solving adventures for generations and will continue to do so.

‘Well yes- they’re the lovely children of my friends Primrose and Edward. They rescued Martha from a nasty accident, and I’m sure they’re highly talented.Although you may not be able to see that right now,” said Felicity, looking doubtfully at Josh.

I’ve always found Fleur’s books to be layered beautifully for a range of readers and The Frost Castle Adventure is no exception; that the youngest reader can access the light hearted side such as through the sweet treats and Josh and his capering about in this book with cushions up a dress; the sensitive reader can get swept up in the emotional experiences such as Chloe’s anxieties or Ava’s adolescent mortification at her brother; the analytical reader will be picking apart conversations and reading back to reassess for clues and red herrings; and the older reader will see the social commentary dotted amongst it all such as in this case vanity -‘don’t meet your heroes’ though this series admittedly has a lighter social commentary than Fleur’s brilliant ‘Murder’ series.

It sounds crazy but I feel cursed!

The crimes across this Clifftoppers series that the children uncover are both modern and ‘as old as time’ such as smuggling and counterfeiting , jewel heist and kidnap showing how not much changes in human behaviour and children’s adventures making them a great series to read together with an adult who may have warm nostalgia for ‘classic’ adventures.

This is a fitting and satisfying finale to this ‘year’ of adventures, and a perfect read for the Twixmas period! I cannot wait to read more from Fleur, and pleeeeeeeeeeeeeease Nosy Crow think about commissioning another year!!!

Clifftoppers: The Frost Castle Adventure by Fleur Hitchcock is published by Nosy Crow

Thank you so much for my copy 💜

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