Libby and the Parisian Puzzle- Jo Clarke Featuring Jo’s Top 5 Boarding School Stories!

Libby and the Parisian Puzzle by Jo Clarke

I have been so excited for this book ever since Jo let slip details of her ideas and aspirations for a young reader mystery, eventually dropping updates on her drafting, writing and editing progress. Then, to watch Jo first be signed to an agent and subsequently with the awesome Firefly Press I was, and continued to be, delighted for her.

Jo is a powerhouse in childrens books, her voice through her blog, Twitter and Instagram lifts up so many authors to the attention of parents, teachers and librarians bringing greater choice and storycraft into the hearts and minds of children , and now, her own stories will join them, you can explore more on her author website here..

When this book arrived I knew I had to make sure I did Jo honour by reviewing the book and not ‘her’ so be assured whilst Jo is a wonderful person, and an ever-supportive champion of Childrens book bloggers this is not a fangirling of a friend but it is a celebration of the impressive and brilliant achievements of a fabulous debut author.

And WHAT a debut.

First of all. My Stop on the tour of Paris is The Louvre. (I think I got the best one!!)

Often described as the ‘Paris Pyramid,’ the Louvre is the home to one of the most well-known paintings in the world, the Mona Lisa. The famous glass pyramid was built in the 1970s and is made of 673 panes of glass. No ladders and buckets are needed to clean the windows, the job is done by a remote-controlled robot.

Illustrated by Becka Moor

Libby has travelled the world with her photographer mother, but this time mum’s latest job means Libby cannot come with her.

Instead Libby will join her aunt’s Travelling School, a boarding school that provides an immersive cultural and educational experience moving cities each term, and this time they are in Paris.

But something is terribly wrong as disasters strike and then Aunt Agatha is accused of a crime… does Libby have what it takes to clear her aunt and solve the mystery?

Image courtesy of Tenor

Now onto my thoughts!

I think one of the biggest compliments an author may take is how my Tinyfae after hearing a few chapters awoke in the night and demanded to be read the rest because she couldn’t sleep for thinking about it!!! And then asked two weeks after we finished the book whether Libby is still ok and can we read it again. Even when finalising this review, Tinyfae saw the book and went OH Libby!! Which is testament to the way this story can hook into the imagination of the reader long after the pages conclude.

Libby and the Parisian Puzzle centred not simply around a fabulous mystery but more so around Friendship and family and how friendships can build family, and how family can be friends as well as ‘relatives’.

The companionship not simply friendship that evolves between Libby and Connie is beautiful as each brings the best out of each other, Libby finds the confidence and encouragement to investigate from Connie and in turn offers trust and a safe place to Connie to accept the privilege of her background and be brave herself.

Image courtesy of Tenor

One of the most remarkable things about this book is how it doesn’t feel like a debut, it feels like you are cosying up in the story craft of a well established and beloved author. There are few debuts that have had this ‘feel’ for me, Sophie Anderson is one, as are Angharad Walker and Nicola Penfold, its not that other debuts are not good, but there is a particular feeling when you know you are in the hands of a master, and I feel Jo’s love of children’s books passionately in every carefully planned part of her story craft. Jo and her editor at Firefly should be commended for such a brilliantly executed debut, and I am in awe of what is to come as Jo grows into her writing as every author does.

It was gorgeous personally to see a positive and yet realistic depiction of a home educated child. Libby has up until now been home educated by her mother as she takes on photojournalism jobs around the world. This has created a deeply imaginative child, but admittedly struggles with the prolonged nature of ‘sit-down’ lessons, and this is a reality for many children and doesn’t mean they don’t want to do well, it just means they struggle with ‘traditional’ structure and Jo’s experience as a school librarian shines through as she doesn’t lapse into ‘easy’ stereotypes, she honours the child, and the reader as complex individuals not tropes.

Libby is not a ‘Hermione’ but she isn’t ‘naughty’ either, Jo carefully steers her away from a ‘not like other girls’ type instead Libby is a fully rounded ‘middle of the Road’ girl who gets bored in lessons, like hanging out with her friend and who just so happens to be extraordinarily observant, because that is her passion.

I appreciated the lack of ‘virtue signalling’ there’s no Pollyanna about Libby, as we see Libby make mistakes, bad choices and equally brave and thoughtful ones too, the complexities make her a compelling heroine.

And a relatable one as children don’t feel being quietly preached to – ‘be like so and so in your book’ is one of the worst things to be told if you just can’t live up to a fictional character. In this way Jo reminds me of the way Robin Stevens made her schoolgirl detective duo deeply brilliant sleuths, however clearly flawed with different manifestations of snobbery and pride yet still wholeheartedly lovable because that is what makes them more relatable and real.

Image courtesy of Tenor

On the subject of other boarding school mysteries I have the honour of hosting Jo’s thoughts on her Top 5 Boarding School Stories!! How many have you read, and which will you be adding to your TBR?!

Top 5 Boarding School Stories – Jo Clarke

Growing up I was obsessed with boarding school stories. I longed to board the train to Malory Towers, enjoy midnight feasts, swim in the sea and finally discover what lacrosse actually was. It only seemed natural when I became a school librarian that this was one of the first genres I was drawn to and that I ultimately went on to write a boarding school series. There are so many fabulous stories set in boarding school that I could have possibly chosen, but these are my absolute favourites.

Murder Most Unladylike series – Robin Stevens

I’m a huge fan of the Murder Most Unladylike series. For me the winning formula is the way that Robin captures the vintage feel of the 1930s but it still manages to be modern and relevant. I love how we got the opportunity to watch Daisy and Hazel grow up and see their lives change, as the series got darker and more perilous.

For me they have also felt completely real, having been written with such great depth, humour and insight they are totally irresistible. My stand out favourites have been, ‘First Class Murder,’ and the series finale, ‘Death Sets Sail.’ The series ended on such a dramatic and brilliant high. It celebrated all of the very best aspects of this brilliant series mixing superbly a mystery full of twists and turns and a turning point in Daisy and Hazel lives.

A Girl Called Justice – Elly Griffiths

‘A Girl Called Justice,’ series is the first foray into children’s fiction for adult crime writer Elly Griffiths. For me it ticked all of my boxes, murder, mystery and boarding schools – what’s not to love?

Highbury House Boarding School for the Daughters of Gentlefolk is a far cry from the traditional jolly boarding school filled with tales of fun and midnight feasts. Justice – who is used to being home schooled – is shocked to discover this world of hideous brown uniforms and the impossible to understand hierarchy amongst the girls. Luckily she is more interested in discovering the truth about the death of one of the maids than ingratiating herself with the popular girls. Smart, sassy and oh so clever this is a genuinely captivating series for lovers of mysteries. I can’t wait to get back on the case with Justice, a heroine you can truly admire!

How To Be Brave – Daisy May Johnson

Calla has never had what you would call a normal existence. When her mum’s dream job offer arrives, she finds herself packed off to a very unusual boarding school run by nuns. But something very strange is going on at the school. The headteacher has been usurped, there are strange men in suits patrolling the grounds and they’re forcing the girls to drink kale smoothies – quelle horreur!

Calla uncovers a terrible plot and together with her new friends the eccentric but marvellous Edie and Hanna she must find a way to thwart their dastardly headmistress. A truly extravagant romp of an adventure that will delight and charm readers with it’s terribly bad behaviour and wonderful characters. It was totally irresistible with its midnight feasts, hidden passageways and pranks all produced with a very modern and humorous twist. Original and quirky, this is simply wonderful.

The Ten Riddles of Eartha Quicksmith – Loris Owen

I had so much fun reading this brilliant and inventive book. Loris has created a truly magnificent world that will delight and astound readers with its fully imagined school for children with remarkable abilities. The strange energies, the remarkable inventions and the weird creatures that inhabit this school are wonderfully compelling. She has also created the most complex and interesting characters who you can’t help root for.

From the vulnerable but brave Kip, who will stop at nothing to help his family to Albert his loyal and brilliant friend. This is more than just a thrilling edge-of-your-seat adventure it’s about learning to believe in yourself and the power of friendships to become unstoppable collaborations even in the darkest of times. I think children will love trying to solve the puzzles and riddles within the story that Loris has cleverly constructed, it gives this story an added element of mystery and intrigue.

St. Grizzle’s series – Karen Mc Combie, illustrated by Becka Moor

‘St Grizzle’s School for Girls, Goats and Random Boy’s is the first book in the hilarious series from Karen McCombie with illustrations by the brilliant illustrator Becka Moor. Meet Dani, who finds herself dumped at a stuffy old boarding school whilst her Mum heads off to the Antarctic to look at penguin’s bums. Just when she thinks things can’t get worse she realises the school has had a drastic makeover.

Gone are the uniforms, the rules and most of the pupils and staff. In their place is TOTAL CHAOS, the children are feral, the lessons are of most unexpected kind, it’s a far cry from what Dani expected. She desperately hopes her mum will come back to collect her but she soon discovers that life at school may not be as bad as she thought! This whole series has been a huge hit with the children at school, wonderfully riotous with lots of rebellious children, it is bound to entertain and engage younger readers looking for less perilous boarding school stories.

Thank you Jo, I’m pretty sure that in years to come children will dream of attending The Travelling School much as I dreamed of having Mam’zelle screech ‘ABOMINABLE!’ at my French work or midnight feasts in the dorms, or indeed young readers have dreamed of attending one of these fabulous fictional boarding schools.

Libby and the Parisian Puzzle is a brilliant and deeply engaging mystery that will leave you craving macarons and hot chocolate and aching for more immersive tales with a dash of mystery and culture through Jo Clarke’s Travelling School. I urge you to take a trip into Jo and Libby’s Paris, you won’t regret it.

Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the tour!

Libby and the Parisian Puzzle by Jo Clarke and illustrated by Becka Moor is published by Firefly Press.

Thank you so much for my copy 💜

2 thoughts on “Libby and the Parisian Puzzle- Jo Clarke Featuring Jo’s Top 5 Boarding School Stories!

  1. Loved reading your review, and I love some of the boarding school books Jo has mentioned as you can probably guess. I really must read How to Be Brave though, I keep forgetting I want to but I’m sure I’ll love it!!


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