When Martin and his brother Charlie embark on a journey from Preston to Cornwall without telling their parents, they’re going to end up in big trouble. Drawn back to St Bernards – a place that totally captivated Charlie – on a mission to see the dolphin that visits the harbour. Martin knows that Charlie will be over the moon to return to this special place and well, Martin will do anything for his brother. Because Charlie isn’t an ordinary brother, he is truly extraordinary in Martin’s eyes. A brother born way too early but who battled for survival and despite the setbacks he’s faced in life and the restrictions it has placed on Martin’s life he couldn’t love him more. But that’s not the only reason Martin is making this epic journey, he is hiding a secret. A huge secret that once revealed, there’ll be no going back from.
I was initially drawn to this book by the stunning, vibrant cover illustrated by David Dean, it was this that made me buy a copy for my school library. This story just wrapped itself around my heart I just loved the relationship between Martin and Charlie. It was realistic and heart-warming without being overly sentimental, I think Mark got the balance just right. It could have so easily been an idealised journey filled with glorious views and special brotherly bonding moments. But Mark captures brilliantly the reality that it’s not going to be a piece of cake for a boy just to sneak out of the house with his brother and travel 421 miles unaccompanied without causing chaos and confusion on the way. It’s on the edge of your seat drama as they try to evade the authority and police who are trying to track them down, containing just enough peril and humour to keep the reader turning the pages. The characterisation is just marvellous, Mark has created characters that you genuinely care about. Not only are Martin and Charlie complex and interesting, but the introduction of juggler and non-comformist Hen gives the story another layer for the reader to unravel. I must confess I struggled to read the last few pages through my tears as I was crying so much. Funny, sad but ultimately uplifting, ‘Charlie and Me’ is a truly special book that I just want to press into the hands of children and encourage them to read.
‘Charlie and Me: 421 Miles From Home’ is available to buy online or from any good bookshop.