Published by Scholastic, 2020.
The Thirteenth Home of Noah Bradley begins with a prologue that reads like the stuff of legend. It tells the origins of a family curse and it gives the book a sense of foreboding right from the start. The prologue firmly sets the mood for the rest of the book. This feeling of impending doom builds from chapter to chapter making for an exciting, tense read. Chapter endings expertly foreshadow the danger that is to come.
The curse on the Bradley family has existed for centuries. Family members are destined to forever be chased from their homes, never able to make one place home for much longer than a year. Either some terrible misfortune befalls their home – a freak fire, or getting blown off a hilltop – or a menacing flock of black birds from the north chases them away. The Bradley family is cursed to be rootless. 12-year-old Noah has had homes in many different countries, in cities, towns and villages. He’s lived on a barge, in a trailer and even in his dad’s van. Just before the curse is about to strike, there are always warning signs. These bad omens include black cats, dark skies, freak weather and the black birds from the north.
In the first chapter Noah, his younger brother Billy and their mom and dad move to Noah’s thirteenth home, a house in a quiet cul-de-sac, 18 Verity Close. Noah quickly grows to love this home. He has his own room with space for his animal posters and Lego. He’s made friends at school. He and his dad have renovated an old bike they found in the shed. His mom has a new job and friends. They’re beginning to develop family routines. So when the omens come, he ignores them…
But you can’t ignore a curse and, inevitably, disaster strikes. It’s up to Noah, Billy and their friend Neena from across the road to put things right. There are four magical objects linked to the curse – a door knocker, a lantern, a fire poker and a weathervane. Do these hold the key to breaking the curse? The three children set off under the cover of darkness to find out.
Noah, Billy and Neena are three very well-drawn characters. The sibling relationship is particularly touching and I loved watching the friendship between Noah and Neena develop. As well as themes of family and friendship, the book also deftly addresses issues of bullying and grief. Amber is also passionate about incorporating disability representation in her books and in this story she has included a main character (Billy) who is partially deaf.
A really key part of the book is Noah working out who he really is and what kind of person he wants to be. The frequent house moves mean that he’s always having to adapt to new situations – new places, new schools, new friends… He’s desperate not to stand out and draw attention to himself. He just wants to be normal and fit in. To do this he flexes and changes, finds a group to join and blend in with: the rugby team, the after-school drama club, the smart kids. The trouble is he’s losing sight of who he really is and by the time he starts hanging out with the class bullies – Jackson, Dylan and Liam – he’s not sure if he really likes the person he’s become.
I loved the twists and turns of The Thirteenth Home of Noah Bradley and raced through it. It’s a gripping read.
Suitable for children aged 8+
Thank you to Scholastic for sending me this book to review. I reviewed it as part of The Thirteenth Home of Noah Bradley blog tour where author Amber Lee Dodd wrote me a guest post about another famous curse in literature. Click here to discover more.