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The Storybarn Selects… From The Reader Bookshelf

Written by Lily Kehoe, 18th March 2024

Our last deep dive into the 2023/24 Children and Young People's Reader Bookshelf is a review of Floodland by Marcus Sedgwick from Head of CYP, Kara.

“How do people remember who they are and where they’re from? And how do they know what it means to be human, what makes us more than animals? How do they pass these things on to their children? Stories, that’s how.”

As a reader of Floodland, the story we’re following is Zoe’s.  We find her alone, separated from her parents in a chaotic escape attempt and trying to survive in what remains of the city of Norwich, but this is not a Norwich we’re familiar with. Floodland is set in the future, a not too distant future, a future where climate change has wreaked havoc and the majority of the UK is covered by water, with few islands of high ground and limited opportunities for safety or security.

We soon learn from Zoe that food is scarce, dangerous gangs roam the streets and it’s every man for themselves in a desperate bid to survive. After finding a boat in a derelict building, Zoe realises that this is an opportunity and that opportunities don’t come around all too often any more. Drawn by a yearning to try to find her parents, despite the fact that she has no assurances that they’re even alive, Zoe sets sail into the floodlands with next to nothing, all she has is her courage and self-belief.

The world created is captivating, the landscape is striking and unforgiving and although, at first glance, Floodland appears to be a pretty classic adventure story, at its heart is an exploration of belonging, the importance of people and place, how it feels to exist without a family to anchor us and what happens to us as individuals when order is gone and morals are blurry.

Zoe is a strong hero and as a reader, I was willing her along every step of the way. Her sense of loss is palpable and so is her despair, as she grapples with the brutality and lawlessness of  the dangerous ‘Eels Island’. It’s a short read at just over 130 pages, but there’s certainly plenty between those pages to make Floodland a Reader bookshelf favourite.

There are some truly beautiful passages, that I reflected on long after I had finished reading.  I especially loved the character of William, strange and enigmatic, full of wisdom. I will end with one of my favourite take aways from the book “What’s the point in surviving if you forget how to be human?” Said William. “Stories walk the truth into existing.”

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