Jummy at the River School by Sabine Adeyinka

Published by Chicken House, 2022.

There’s something thrilling about a boarding school story. I grew up on Malory Towers and St Clare’s. More recent generations have been transported to Hogwarts. Now with Jummy at the River School we can experience life at a girls’ boarding school in 1990s Nigeria.

Jummy has won a place at the River School, the finest girls’ boarding school in Nigeria. Nothing can dampen her spirits, not even when she learns that her best friend Caro won’t be joining her. School is everything Jummy dreamt of and she’s in her element there. When Caro unexpectedly arrives at the school, not to study but to work as a maid, Jummy decides to bring all her friends together to help.

There’s a richness and vibrancy to the story, from the landscape and the wildlife to the fabulous descriptions of traditional dress and mouth-watering food. Sabine Adeyinka has conjured up a magnificent sense of place and really brings Nigeria alive on the page.

There are all the ingredients of a classic boarding school tale: midnight feasts, house rivalries, a vindictive staff member, and sporting contests. There are mean girls, and wonderful friendships. Now add crocodiles, scorpions and the magnificent Shine-Shine River to the mix and you can see what a treat’s in store.

The book explores themes of justice, class and poverty. The River School is a fee-paying school and, while it offers some scholarships, there are deserving girls – like Caro who is gifted at maths and dance – whose family circumstances prevent them from attending. Some spoilt rich girls, on the other hand, might win their place because of privilege rather than merit.

Jummy at the River School is a terrific story with friendship and loyalty at its heart.

Rating: 💙💙💙💙

Suitable for children aged 8+

Thank you to Chicken House for sending me this book to review.

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