The Messenger Bird – Ruth Eastham

The Messenger Bird, Ruth Eastham; Scholastic; May 2012

Book Summary (taken from Amazon UK:) Nathan’s father has been arrested. He works for the Ministry of Defence and is accused of leaking top secret information. But as he is dragged into a police car, he gives Nathan a message. It leads to a riddle, but it’s not from Dad. It’s from an ex-Bletchley Park employee, Lily Kenley, and was written in 1940. Nathan begins to follow the clues left behind by Lily. But how can this war-time story link to his father’s fate? Hope for Dad’s appeal is fading fast. He must solve the puzzle. Time is running out.

In addition to our review of The Messenger Bird we have an interview with the author Ruth Eastham on the blog on Friday. We  also have 5 copies of the book to give away (thank you to Scholastic for supplying the books!)click here to enter our competition.

Literature for Lads Review:
The Second World War has provided the backdrop to an enormous number of novels so I was a little apprehensive that this book might suffer from a lack of originality and new ideas. Thankfully Ruth Eastham has ensured this is not the case. Taking the story of one of World War Two’s biggest secrets, Bletchley Park and the code breakers who worked there, she has written a compelling mystery story for teenagers, whilst at the same time enlightening all who read the book on what actually happened in those mysterious huts at Bletchley Park.

By the end of the first chapter Eastham has sown the seeds for this mysterious story to begin. As the Father of 11 year old Nathan is arrested and pushed into a waiting car with tinted windows, Nathan ponders the message his Dad has just given him.  Quickly realising that his Dad has tried to pass information to him in code, Nathan begins to unravel the 1st stage of a mysterious trail.  What follows sees Nathan and his fellow school friends, Josh and Sasha, in a race against time to solve the trail and gain freedom for his Dad.

The book cleverly combines the present day with that of 1940’s Britain as Nathan’s trail leads him to first to an attic full of Second World War memorabilia before this in itself leads to Bletchley Park. Eastham keeps each of the chapters moving along at a good pace, giving us just enough information to try and solve the puzzles that Nathan and his friends face themselves.

At times the book is hugely atmospheric and you can almost feel the coldness of the snow as our intrepid explorers make their way under cover of darkness to Bletchley Park one evening. As the three school friends get closer to saving Nathan’s Dad they at the same time begin to unravel an unexplained mystery regarding one of the former Bletchley Park employees. This adds some depth to the book and allows Eastham to delve more deeply into both the history of the Second World War, and in particular the German bombing of Coventry.

It’s clear that the author has researched the material for the book meticulously and the background given to such things as the Enigma Code breaking machines are an interesting deviation from the quest to solve the mystery trail. Youngsters (and others!) will be fascinated with what they lean about Bletchley Park and what went on there during the war.

The Messenger Bird is a thoroughly enjoyable read, full of mystery, intrigue, puzzles and riddles. As the story progress you will find yourself willing the three school friends to solve the next clue and take one step closer to not only saving Nathan’s Dad but also unravelling the mysterious story from seventy years earlier. Well done to Ruth Eastham for taking a piece of History which has given us so many stories already and creating a new, original and exciting one.

Marks out of 10: 7

For more information on Ruth Eastham do visit her brilliant website here

Watch this video to find out a little more about the Enigma Code which features in The Messenger Bird

Please let us know what you thought about the book if you have read it by adding a comment to the blog post. And if you haven’t read the book let us know if this review has convinced you!