And Then I Read: PEBBLE by Julia Jones

Cover illustration by Claudia Myatt

Since 2012, author and sailboat owner Jones has been quietly building a great adventure line, the “Strong Winds” series. This is book six, featuring a large family of children and their friends in England’s East Anglia district on the island’s east coast. All of them include sailing adventures as well as gripping suspenseful plots with themes from today’s world, and very real characters with serious problems to overcome. This one includes Russian spies and the possible beginning of a new Cold War.

Liam is the youngest family member at age 10, and his understanding of the world is informed by the things that have happened to his family, which often include danger from the sea. He tries to watch out for them, but is having an ever-harder time at it. A trip with his friend Donny in the Chinese junk sailing ship “Strong Winds” seems like a good escape from his worries, but problems with his vision that he hardly even admits to himself lead the boat astray and create a whole new level of trouble, including a mysterious box of radioactive material and Russian hit-men on their case. Liam’s sister Anna’s Russian boyfriend and his family are involved, and soon the rest of the family are too, including Liam’s famous musician mother and physically impaired father. Meanwhile, Heike, on a work visa from Eastern Europe, is restoring a small sailing dinghy for Anna and decides to deliver it by sailing it down the coast to the family’s home. She’s soon involved in the spy trouble, too, and her hatred for Russians isn’t helping.

Julia Jones began this series inspired by Arthur Ransome’s “Swallows and Amazons” books about kids and sailing, several of which take place in the same area, but she has found her own path by making these stories about the world and problems of today as well as kids having fun, and being resourceful and brave. I highly recommend the entire series, but any of them can be read on their own.

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