Here’s something you should believe: this story is a must-read! Cymbeline made me smile on many occasions as the conversational style of the writing, and the anecdotes around school and home life, and use of humour drew me inexorably towards him: he is just so incredibly likeable! Coupled with this, he is honest, kind and empathetic, qualities he has in spades as he astutely pieces together the clues to solve two intriguing mysteries.
Cymbeline is best friends with Veronique whose beloved Nanai, who came to England as a refugee from Vietnam, has stopped talking and eating, and Cymbeline is determined to solve the mystery, not only to make his best friend smile again, but because he also adores Nanai. With the help of Kit-Kat, the most adorable and clever rat – not a hamster – and his adroit sleuthing skills, he very cleverly pieces together the puzzle, revealing some incredible twists and revelations.
Not content with solving one mystery, Cymbeline is also intent on finding out who appears to have a grudge against his favourite teacher, Mrs Martins who has been targeted in a very nasty way. The children of St Saviour’s School adore her and are shocked by what happens to her, so who could the perpetrator be?
Whilst Cymbeline is very perceptive at solving mysteries outside his family, he is not quite so adept at spotting what in going on in his own family – until the last moment!
I adored the friendship between Cymbeline and Veronique. They really have each other’s backs no matter the consequences. Each is willing to make personal sacrifices to help the other. Their relationship feels very authentic and heartfelt with a genuine connectedness from the everyday activities they enjoy with each other to Cymbeline’s pain and helplessness at his friend’s distress, and his dogged determination to bring her Nanai back to the family.
This story expertly blends humour with poignant moments; home with school life; modern life with historical context; and, misunderstandings with revelations, all of which captured me in an engrossing read which made this book unputdownable. I hope I get to meet Cymbeline in Year 5!
I would highly recommend this book to any child of 9+ and their teachers!
Thank you to NetGalley and Harper Collins Children’s Books for an e-arc of this book.