Two Review Panel members share their reviews
Book Title: Orla and the Serpent’s Curse (available here)
Author: C.J. Haslam
Illustrator: Paddy Donnelly
Publication Date: April 2020
Most Suitable For: Years 5-6
Reviewed By: Tami Wylie & Kristen Hopwood
Magic in its purest form is woven throughout this wonderful book. This is the story of Orla, a 12-year-old girl and her journey of self -discovery. When she travels with her family to a remote holiday cottage in Cornwall, strange things begin to happen to Orla. When a tree nearly falls on her and she discovers an ancient necklace in the tree, she starts a journey that will change her life forever. She begins having strange dreams of a young woman being chased by a crowd. As she starts trying to figure out what is going on, she discovers that the woman in her dream is a witch who was killed a long time ago; the witch who cursed the area where she is staying. She also discovers that their holiday cottage is the home of that witch and that she is the only one who can save the area from its curse. Along the way she meets other witches who tell her that she too, is a witch. Can Orla save everyone? Will she be thwarted by her new so-called friends? With her life on the line, Orla must be brave in the face of danger and make some difficult choices. This is a brilliantly written book that keeps the reader hanging on the edge of their seat. It is packed with twists and turns to keep you guessing right up to the very end.
Orla and the Serpent’s Curse is a creepy mystery set in Cornwall. 12-year-old Orla and her family are on holiday in Cornwall, but something isn’t right about where they are staying. She’s having strange dreams and finding even stranger objects, and to top it off, there’s a theory that the land was cursed by an ancient Cornish witch! Orla finds herself right smack in the middle of this mystery and she must work out whether there is any truth to the rumours about the curse. She enlists the help of a mysterious girl in a black hoody as well as her more sceptical brothers and the local historical society made up of suspicious old ladies. And of course, the family pet, Dave the dog. I found this book incredibly compelling and couldn’t put it down! I was eager to find out what Orla would uncover next on her quest to stop the curse. I loved that it was set in Cornwall – a place I have spent many a holiday – as the Cornish coast is the perfect setting to be both beautiful and dangerous. The detailed descriptions of the coast, storms and horizontal rain made me feel like I was there right along with Orla. The witchcraft element made the story creepy and magical. Perhaps not one to read at night! I also loved that Orla was fiercely independent. A girl who doesn’t conform to stereotypes and thoroughly determined to uncover the truth. The insights into Dave the dog’s thoughts added humour to the story as well as showing that he had excellent instincts!
I think a lot of Year 6 children would love this sinister tale; scary books suitable for Primary children are few and far between. I would suggest reading it yourself before recommending to all Year 6’s though – I think it might cause a few of mine sleepless nights!
Many thanks to the publisher for sending us a review copy of this book and to Review Panel members Tami and Kristen for reviewing it.
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