Two brothers travel by train from their home in the north of England to a southern coastal town to revisit a wild dolphin they saw during a family vacation a year earlier.
Despite a premature birth and multiple operations, 10-year-old Charlie has grown into a funny, feisty, and creative boy, adored by his family and obsessed with dolphins. His rebellious personality, however, challenges 13-year-old Martin, and the journey is fraught with obstructions. The older brother has only just enough money for one ticket, so the younger spends much of the trip in hiding. A chance encounter with a runaway girl whom Martin at first dislikes proves to be their salvation. She helps them avoid the police and finally to reach their destination in time to fulfill his promise to Charlie. The chapters are interspersed with flashbacks to the family holiday the previous year, and each leg of the journey begins with one of Martin’s poems and his meticulous records of the distance traveled. Lowery’s narrative skill and Martin’s funny, self-deprecating voice elevate this novel, and a plot twist at the end both is entirely unexpected and satisfyingly reveals the real reasons behind the journey. The primary characters are implied white; the stereotypical depiction of an avaricious South Asian shopkeeper at the outset strikes a sour note in this British import.
A gentle paean to the intensity of brotherly love. (Fiction. 10-14)