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Sunday 19 March 2023


 by Laura Noakes;  


An Adventure Book Review by Erin the Literary Cat©, International Book Reviewer.

Hello, and welcome to my weekend Book Review featuring Adventures in Middle-Grade Fiction.

If you are here for a selfie, please scroll down.

On good news front, Mrs H sent my Middle Grade adventure book to an editor who works for many of the top literary houses. Once it returns, well be sending on to prospective agents that have expressed an interest. 

But enough from us. Lets get on with the show and reveal this weeks special adventure story....

Cover image showing osima walking in front of a glass exhibition palace.
Book cover image ©







Publication date: PaperbacK: 25TH MAY 2023


Paperback ISBN:   978-0-00-857905-0

Cover price for Paperback £7.99


Pages: 286


Age range: 8 and upwards

No companion creatures, this time!




Some as to plot direction and characters.



Thank you to... 


We are exceedingly grateful to Jess at Harper Collins Publishers for the privilege of getting to Read & Review this fantastic inclusive adventure book before publication, so we can give you the review you need.

As ever, our views are our own, and we only share reviews of books we have bought, been given as gifts, or received in exchange for an impartial review. 

First and foremost, the books we review are those we like and feel our global readers deserve to know about and that we hope they, their children, friends, and students will enjoy.



The plot


Let's set the scene for you...


It is 1899, and we are in Kensington, London. Our heroine, Cosima, 'Cos' to her friends, is aged 12. She has, since a tiny baby, lived at a dilapidated children's home in Victorian London. There are twenty girls in all, each most special in their own way. But every single one was willingly or unwillingly sent to The Home for Unfortunate Girls. You see, polite Victorians frown on disability. Society does not wish to see the disabled or those they perceive as different, or less than, in whatever form. Better to keep them silent, out of sight and out of mind.


Cos was the first at the home, and so is child No.1. She acquired the nickname 'Cosima Unfortunate' because she is rather unfortunate; it soon stuck, and unlike the other girls, she has nobody of her own. Or at least, so she thought. Her disability is that her joints ache and dislocate. This means she can be in agony, sometimes needing a walking stick and other times being wheelchair-bound.


The school is run by a brother and sister team called Stains. Ever investing in get-rich-quick schemes that never would, they are always in debt. Needless to say, Cos and her pals bear the brunt of this. The girls' rooms are unheated, and the food isn't more substantial than gruel – three meagre daily portions. As much punishment as to earn a scant amount of keep for the home, the girls have to unpick rope and cables from ships. This is then mixed with tar or grease to make oakum, which is used to go between the planks and make the vessel watertight. 


Cos and her best pals Diya, Pearl and Mary do their best to win small victories against the despicable Stains: planning raids on Miss Stains' cake stash for guests or hiding the Stains' things and making life as bad as they can for them. They likely always get punished, as often Cos' plans go wrong, or she goes off-plan, but they are worth it.


What each of the friends may have lacked outwardly in the eyes of others, they more than make up for with skills. Mary is a most particular planner; everything to the 'nth degree. Diya has a keen mind for figures and inventing and can devise almost any gadget a young girl could wish for mischief-making from the residue of the Stains' failed purchases and schemes that litter the home. Pearl is the master crafter/artist and can create astounding lifelike copies of things using the oakum.


Cos' latest plan involves replica cakes to replace those bought by Miss Stains to give to her well-to-do lady guests, patrons of the crumbling home. All is going well until Cos spots Miss Stains' open ledger. Keen to see if there are any extra details of her origins, Cos goes off plan again. And whilst she discovers she arrived with only a handkerchief, the plan falls apart, and they get caught. But just before the girls do, Cos overhears a conversation between Miss Stains and one Lord Fitzroy. It seems he wants to adopt all twenty of the defective girls. Miss Stains being who she is, demands £500 for them, and they strike a deal. 


Needless to say, the girls are not 'defective'. Each may be different, but they are still human. Whatever slimy voice Lord Fitzroy wants the girls for, Cos senses it isn't good. It seems the scientific project he is working on and in which the Stains have invested will change the world. But why does he need the girls?


Cos digs out the handkerchief from a box of the girls' personal possessions, its relevance and importance previously unknown to all. Within its now dirty fabric and elaborate, if strange stitching is hidden a clue to Cos' life and parents, Cos is sure of that. But what?


Armed with only an aged piece of fabric and a hunch Cos is determined to find out more about her parents. More pressingly, she is determined to stop the girls from being effectively sold to the nefarious Lord Fitzroy. 


With the aid of a new-found friend, a young street magician and pickpocket, Cos and the gang come up with the most daring of plans yet. It all centres around a collection of highly precious jewels on display at the Empire Exhibition that is taking place at that very time in London. Treasures pilfered from nations within the empire by none other than Lord Fitzroy himself!


What is the girl's plan? What plans does Fitzroy have for 20 shunned-by-society innocent girls? Who or what is the mysterious 'The Institute' whose symbol of a skeletal tree is tattooed on Fitzroy's arm and scares Miss Stains so much? And who is the strange new inky-fingered lady visitor to the school who seems more interested in Lord Fitzroy and the Stains than taking tea and cake!


A fabulous adventure ensues, with a race against time, death and almost insurmountable odds. There will, I assure you be upset, fear, tension and bravery aplenty. 


So, what did we think?  


Undoubtedly a tale of two halves. Touching on the genuine circumstances and behaviours towards those perceived as an affront to polite (and itself morally corrupt) Victorian society, this adventure puts disabled characters firmly at the forefront of a cracking yarn where they deserve to be and each shine.

So . . . .

Crunch time. 


Written with such conviction, passion, and a real sense of person and place, I half expected Moriarty and Sherlock to make an appearance! It is packed with everything a Middle Grade should be: action adventure, gadgets, and the mysterious, the good and the bad. It shows the true worth of the human soul and a positive world amidst the bad. Definitely one for all the kids to enjoy and be empowered by.

Want to buy a copy?

To get a copy, please escape down your own homemade ladders, evading ghastly staff and well-to-do, if poorly guided gentry, and head to your local independent gruel and oakhum free bookshop. There are plenty out there, and each shop is just waiting to serve up whatever kind of mystery, fun and adventure you desire.

A little about the author: 


Dr Laura Noakes was awarded her doctorate in legal history in 2021. She is a disabled writer and works at the Devil's Porridge Museum in Scotland. A link to this rather fascinating museum can be found by clicking HERE or type this:


Laura's poetry has been published in Scrittura Magazine, and she has published articles in 'Disability in Kidlit' and 'Kettle Mag'.


She lives with her mischievous cat, Scout, and her husband, Connor, in beautiful Cumbria, England.


LAURA NOAKES' web page can be found HERE or type this:


FLAVIA SORENTINO's web page can be found HERE or type this:


HARPER COLLINS UK web page can be found HERE or type this:


And as it's a Sunday, we are joing the Sunday Selfies, Hosted by Janet Blue of the Cat on My Head blog, in America. 

I shall leave you with MY Sunday Selfie 🙂 🙂

Images are all ©


Till laters!



  1. Now, this looks like an absolute corker - with villains to make Our blood boil!
    Erin, your pawtrait is beautiful.

    1. Thank you. Yes a great debut novel. Talking of which, your book prize has been posted!

  2. ERin I love good books and this is a great review
    Hugs Cecilia

    1. Thank you. There are so many fun adventuresome books and writers out there. You'd think it would be easy to choose one to review, but my, it is so very hard.

  3. Erin and Mrs. H., we think this sounds like such a good book. Cosima sounds like a terrific character, and we love good vs. corrupt tales. Oh, and Erin, that just may be the most beautiful selfie of you ever!

    Also, we wanted to thank you again for the book, "The Lighthouse Bookshop." Our copy arrived this past week, and we are looking forward to reading it. Work has been quite busy, but we will start it in early April, when we will have a bit of a Spring break. XO

    1. Deginitely lots of classic Victorian themed villains to boo! Glad your prize book arrived. Hopefully you'll enjoy it as much as we did. Maybe if you do, you could leave a review for the author, and Newt, her tuxedo cat :)

  4. This sounds like a great book and will be added to my to buy list.
    That is a beautiful selfie of you.

    1. You're list will be so long soon. We are so pleased you enjoyed the review :)

  5. What a fascinating book. It sounds so full of interest and characters!!!

  6. That book cover is super cool and such a good review. Oh Princess, your selfie is most beautiful!

    1. Thanks, Brian. The pose was a one off I suspect. Not often I catch Mrs H napping. If only I could have used the camera :)

  7. That's such pawsome news about your book! And a terrific selfie too :)

    1. Thank you, and thank you. Early days though on my book, even though its been in the making 3 years!

  8. Your Sunday pawtrait of you is so adorable! Squeeee! xo

    1. Thanks, Mrs H got to the camera just in time.

  9. Another epic review Erin, and this book sounds like one Amber will definitely be adding to the Mewton-Clawson library shelves soon!

  10. Beautiful portrait/selfie, Erin! Wow!

    That sure does sound like a really good book. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  11. Dear Erin, yoo are a marvelous literary book reviewer. And I love yoor Sunday pawtrait. And I'm so excited to know yoor book is finally getting looked at. Wishing yoo lots of success. Love, Dori

  12. Charlee: "We love the heart on your nose, Erin! Our Dada says he just wants to boop it!"

  13. We can't wait to see your book in print, ERin!