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Swimming Against the Storm

Swimming Against the Storm

Published: 4 Apr 2019

Paperback / softback, 288 pages

Recommended for age 9+ and 11+

By Jess Butterworth

Published by Hachette Children's Group

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An adventure story set in the swamplands of Louisiana about sisters, rising sea-levels and saving the environment, perfect for fans of Katherine Rundell and Lauren St John. Our land is sinking. It's disappearing into the water.

And no one knows how to save it. Twelve-year-old Eliza and her sister Avery have lived their entire lives in a small fishing village on the coast of Louisiana, growing up alongside turtles, pelicans and porpoises. But now, with sea levels rising, their home is at risk of being swept away.

Determined to save the land, Eliza and her younger sister Avery secretly go searching in the swamp for the dangerous, wolf-like loup-garou. If they can prove this legendary creature exists, they're sure that the government will have to protect its habitat - and their community. But there's one problem: the loup-garou has never been seen before.

And with a tropical storm approaching and the sisters deep, deep in the swampland, soon it's not just their home at risk, but their lives as well...

Reviewed by Charlotte Raby

Swimming Against The Storm is another novel by Jess Butterworth with an environmental theme. You may already be familiar with Running on the Roof of the World and When the Mountains Roared.

What if your greatest dream turns out to be a lie?

What would you be willing to do to save your land, community and way of life?

How do you survive when land and sea merge in a storm, and you have nowhere to shelter?

Avery believes she can save her land by finding a loup-garou, a mythical animal, which could mean the swamps would be protected. But she makes a dreadful error that launches us, her sister Liza and friends into a fast-paced rescue mission in the swamps of Louisiana.

Jess Butterworth creates a vibrant world, seething with life. She adroitly uses the queasy swamps to make an adventure full of jeopardy. I read parts of the book holding my breath!

Although this book has a serious environmental message, it in no way detracts from the storytelling. The dialogue is sparky and natural. Ideas about nature, and how we use it are explored in a sophisticated way that children will find challenging to their preconceptions.

Swimming Against The Storm would be an excellent whole-class text for upper junior classes. The themes of exploitation of nature by communities and big industry, land insecurity due to climate change and our culpability (or not) in this lend themselves to nuanced debate. I am very much looking forward to Where the Wilderness Lives and  Into the Volcano.

I have 20 years’ experience in teaching, training and educational consultancy, I support schools to deliver excellence in primary English teaching. I have acted as a consultant for the Department for Education and am the lead lecturer in English at Essex and Thames Primary SCITT.

I lead the HEI partnership with the Open University Research Rich Pedagogies and am passionate that all teachers understand the balance between teaching children to read using systematic synthetic phonics and instilling a love of reading through: developing their own knowledge, reading aloud and creating reading-rich environments in schools.