Jummy at the River School (available here) is a boarding school middle-grade story set in vibrant 1990s Nigeria. Read on for a review of Jummy at the River School and a guest post from author Sabine Adeyinka about her journey to publication…
Book Title: Jummy at the River School (available here)
Author: Sabine Adeyinka
Publisher: Chicken House Books
Publication Date: 6 Jan 2022
Most Suitable for: Upper KS2
Reviewed by: Carol Carter
Jummy at the River School is a fantastic, immersive introduction to life at boarding school in 1990s Nigeria. Many of the themes of friendship and bravery and justice are universal, but the vividly described River School setting, and Jummy’s own unique voice, make the story sing. Jummy has always dreamed of being accepted to Nigeria’s best girls boarding school, and the reality is everything she hoped for. The grounds are beautiful, her dorm mates take her under their wing, and before long she is caught up in a whirlwind of midnight feasts, picnics, school songs and working hard to win the house prize. Everything seems perfect, the only fly in the ointment stuck-up Bolaji who thinks she is better than everyone else. However, it is not long before Jummy finds that, to her surprise, her best friend from back home, Caro, is also at the River School. Jimmy’s initial elation turns to confusion when she realises that Caro; brave, funny, clever Caro; is there as a maid to the matron, to work not learn. Jummy decides that everyone deserves the opportunities she has, and with the help of her new friends, resolves that there must be a way to help Caro join them at school.
Suitable across the KS2 age range, Jummy at the River School is very accessibly written, with short chapters averaging 8 pages and large, well-spaced text that is easy on the eye. The underlying poverty and class differences affecting Jummy, Caro and Bolaji are never shied away from but also never overwhelm the joyful nature of the story and the light-footed writing that keep you wanting to turn the next page. Perfect for fans of school stories and as a class reader linked to Africa, Jummy at River School is as juicy and sweet and captivating as Caro’s favourite agbalumo fruit.
This book also features as one of our January 2022 Books of the Month.
by Sabine Adeyinka, author of Jummy at the River School
JOURNEY TO PUBLICATION
My most vivid memories happened while in boarding school in Nigeria. I was so present and alive in that space that I remember almost everything. I remember the way I felt, who I sat beside and even the timetable for meals. When I moved to the UK after University in 1998 (I studied Estate Management for no particular reason whatsoever), I started writing very short stories about growing up in Nigeria. I realise now that I was probably homesick at the time.
In 2004, I wrote the first 1,000 words of Jummy at the River school, though it had no title at the time. I showed my friends and family and they all seemed to find it interesting. However, I didn’t go back to that story until 2015 while in Venice. I sat outside a café and wrote an additional 1,000 words. It was then I decided to take my writing a bit more seriously. I went on an AVON writing retreat where the tutor said my writing was good but just a bunch of anecdotes. She wanted a story!
I immediately knew what I would write about. When I was eleven, just like Jummy, I found out I was going to a really good boarding school. I was so excited, mainly because I had devoured all Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers and St. Claire’s series! One day, my older sister and I were visiting our cousins and just as we crossed the road to their house, I saw my primary school friend, selling oranges. She was a street hawker and I found out she was not going to secondary school at all. That picture has never left me!
After that, I started writing ferociously and consistently. I threw all my other story ideas out of the window and focused on this story alone. Around 2016, I found out about the Golden Egg academy who run an Industry led twelve month writing course that helps you craft your children’s novel. I sent in 5,000 words as requested – this was good because that’s all I had. I got selected and the journey began. It was through this course that I finished my first draft and continued to work on it for the next 4 years.
I sent my draft into a few competitions and publishers but never got any interest. I remember when I saw the open coop competition advertised for the second of January 2020, I rolled my eyes but immediately thought, ‘Why not?’
I sent it in on the day with very little thought about it again until I saw an email from ChickenHouse in April 2020. I imagined it was the usual disinterest and was so stunned to see they were interested in mentoring me. Soon afterwards, once they knew more about my story, they offered me a publishing contract.
With the expertise of Rachel Leyshon, Editorial director at ChickenHouse, we were able to complete editing within a year. ft your children’s novel
Jummy at the River School by Sabine Adeyinka is out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House)
Many thanks to the publishers for sending us a review copy and to Sabine for providing the guest post. For more about the book, visit the other stops on the blog tour.
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