Bricks in the Cave::by Susan Harwood, A Review

The Bricks in the Cave is a juvenile fiction adventure story that was brought to my attention by the author, Susan Harwood a few months ago and I'm finally reviewing it. It's been hard to sit down and write about it, mainly because I liked it so well, and wanted to do it justice. Here is my attempt. I hope you can get a moment to read the story, find it on the author's blog here. Read it and tell a friend.

The Bricks in the Cave is set in coastal England. (So right away I'm charmed.) The hero of the story, Charlie is being pursued by Ed (the neighborhood bully) along the cliffs above the ocean. He slips and falls off the cliff edge, and ends up in a large cave. In the cave, inexplicably, are stacks of boxes. Pirate's booty? Smuggler's cargo? Charlie opens the boxes and discovers.......large plastic bricks. He builds a staircase and escapes through a hole in the roof of the cave. But who put the bricks in the cave? And why is Charlie and his friend, Simon, being followed? Are they in danger? Will they get even with Ed? It's these questions that move this story along, as well as Susan Harwood's fast-paced, yet detailed writing. The story flows with a nice rhythm, and the resolution is great: an epic scene complete with a neighborhood conspiracy, business tycoons, reporters, glow in the dark monsters and a moonlit cliff. On the whole, I'd say that TBITC is exciting, interesting, funny and thoughtful. And in need of a publisher! Indeed, my only problem with TBITC is that I wanted to carry it around as a battered paperback to read in all my favorite spots, but I was forced to huddle in our damp concrete back office on our desktop, as B was doing some important work on the laptop (I think it was Weird Al videos on You Tube........okay, it was the script for the Christmas play at church. All very virtuous and above board.)

Okay, so here's what I loved, and I hope there's no spoilers.

1. I loved the descriptions of Charlie's neighborhood, and the nearby coast. Especially the gorse bushes, which Charlie and Simon use as a fort. The descriptions of the coastline, the cliff face and the beach really paint the picture well.

2. Pretty early into the story you are given the answer to most of the above questions, and just when you think you understand all that is happening, there's a twist, and you read on, trying to discover just what Charlie and Simon are working on. It really drew me in.

3. Later in the story, the neighborhood children band together to fight for a common purpose, and I really resonated with this. When I was young, I wanted nothing more than to be a part of a group that was fighting crime, or solving mysteries. I wanted a gang, and a clubhouse, and a secret code with which to correspond. At the time I was reading The Three Investigators, Nancy Drew, and The Bobbsey Twins. They all worked together to reach their goal, using team work, skill and a healthy dose of thinkums. I think this appealed to me because I was desperate to belong, and to contribute. And I did have some thinkums, but zero coordination. School sports could never fulfill this longing, on the contrary, it made me feel even more alone; though I was a part of a group, I was a major liability. I was always picked last for teams, and therefore humiliated. Daily. Anyway. Where was I?

4. I really liked what ended up happening with Ed, the bully. I can't say anymore, or I'll give it away. But I think it was excellent, and unexpected. Unexpected mercy and grace.

5. Chapter 22 'Anthony James Needs the Loo' and Chapter 23 'Under the Hedge' are just brilliant and poetic and funny. A good snapshot into the lives of some of the children who live in the neighborhood. I can picture them so well, I can't wait for this to be a movie.

In all, this book needs publishing. I hope it does, and soon, so that G can have a great chapter book to read, she's almost 3, so you haven't got long!

Thank you so much, Susan, for letting me read your marvelous story. Let me know when you are published so we can queue up for our copy!


Susan Harwood said...

Dear Rosa

Thank you so much for your wonderful review!

Not only am I delighted that you like it so much, I also find your comments really perceptive - which is also very encouraging! (Especially what you say about Ed.)

Lots of thanks.


Anonymous said...

It was good...

Read Your Way Through the Garden: Choice Tomes From Garden Literature

  • A Book of Salvias by Betsy Clebsch
  • Botany for Gardeners by Brian Capon
  • Making Bentwood Trellises by Jim Long
  • RHS Encyclopedia of Plants & Flowers
  • Rose Primer: An Organic Approach to Rose Selection & Care by Orin Martin
  • Start With the Soil by Grace Gershuny
  • Sunset Western Garden Book
  • Sunset Western Landscaping Book
  • The Book of Garden Secrets by Patent & Bilderback
  • The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Botany
  • the Gardener's Table: A Guide to Natural Vegetable Growing and Cooking by Richard Merrill & Joe Ortiz
  • The Gardener's Year by Karel Capek
  • The Hutchinson Dictionary of Plant Names: Common & Botanical
  • We Made A Garden by Margaret Fish

lotsa latin: rosa's botanical & etymological ruminations

  • vespertinus: flowers in the evening
  • vernalis:spring
  • veni vidi nates calcalvi: we came, we saw, we kicked butt. This was printed on a T shirt I bought at Abbot's Thrift many years ago. It encircled the NEA symbol. I wish I knew why.
  • superciliaris: shaped like an eyebrow ex: sturnella superciliaris, the White-browed Blackbird
  • rosa-sinensis: species of Hibiscus: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. Lit. Rosa of China, so named by British plant hunters.
  • placentiformis: shaped like a cake ex: discocactus placentiformis
  • nudiflorus: flowers before leaves show ex: flowering quince, magnolia
  • nivalis: growing in or near snow ex: galanthus nivalis (common snowdrop)
  • muralis: growing on walls
  • mirabilis: marvellous, wonderful
  • formosa: beautiful ex: dicentra formosa, a.k.a.western bleeding heart/dutchman's breeches/lady in a bath
  • carpe vitam: get a life
  • Carolus Linnaeus: Latinized name of Carl von Linne (1707-1778), Swedish naturalist considered the father of plant taxonomy. Whatta guy.