Children's Fiction

BOOK REVIEW: Bloom by Nicola Skinner

– Short Review –

In the age of increasing environmental awareness this is an absolute joy of a book.  The story of Sorrel and the “Surprising Seeds” she finds in her back garden.  Seeds which struggle to sprout until she sprinkles them on her head – before she knows it the whole town is growing a garden on their scalp!  After discovering a long forgotten garden centre in town she starts to unpick the history of the seeds and their previous owner, Agatha Strangeways.
If you like Matilda by Roald Dahl and the magic of Harry Potter this book creates a perfect hybrid of the two.

– Longer Review –

Sorrel Fallowfield lives in a town that’s a concrete jungle.  She’s Head of Year at school and determinedly follows the rules and works hard.  When the Headmaster, Mr Grittysnit, dangles the prospect of a prize holiday for the most obedient child in school Sorrel decides that it’s just the break her Mum needs.  After all, mum’s job at the local pizza factory is not the most exciting thing on earth and surely they could both use a little colour in their lives?
However the discovery of a mysterious packet of seeds in her back garden turns all her plans to dust.  These seeds look odd, they’re black and gangly looking, what could they be?  Sorrel and her best friend, Neena, decide they require some expert help and the discovery of a long forgotten garden centre in town provides much more than they expected.
It’s owner, Sid Strangeways, tells them all about his ancestor Agatha and how she had previously tended the village, making it a place filled with flowers, greenery and nature.  All until she was betrayed and tricked into selling all her land to the local developer.  He quickly gobbled up the greenery in favour of concrete and buildings.
Sorrel and Neena try to grow the seeds without success, until they sprinkle them on their head.  Before long they, literally, have gardens on their scalps.  What’s more these are self seeding plants and soon the whole school is a walking window box.  As the children return home their parents become infected and it doesn’t take long before the entire village is a moving garden.
Attention from the press and tourists soon follow but the villagers are desperate for a “cure”.  However when the local developer suggests that the only way to stop the growth is to concrete everyone’s head Sorrel realises that this is the exact opposite of what the town needs.
This book is a glorious celebration of nature, nurture, friendship and looking after our world.  It’s about taking time to appreciate what we have and not making assumptions about what makes us happy.  Put simply, it’s magical.
Bloom is published by HarperCollinsChildren’s and is available here.
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Nicola Skinner

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A dandelion being blown by her young daughter gave Nicola the idea for her first book, Bloom. As a freelance journalist and copywriter, Nicola has written for the GuardianThe PoolThe National Trust, and many national magazines. One of her features on language led to a guest appearance on Michael Rosen’s Radio 4 programme, Word of Mouth. She lives in Bristol with her family.

Reviewed by Angela Paull

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