*For Welsh review, see language toggle switch on top of page*
Suggested reading age: 8+
Suggested interest age: 7-11
Illustrations: Gwen Millward
I'm sure that Casia Wiliam, the author, felt a teeny bit of pressure whilst writing the follow up novel to the very successful Sw Sara Mai. The first installment went on to win the Welsh Language Primary age category in the Tir na n-Og Awards 2021. Not an easy task to top that!
I think she’s definitely maintained the standard with this one, and frankly I enjoyed this one as much if not more than its predecessor. The ingredients that Sw Sara Mai so popular are all there, but we’re now a lot more familiar with the likeable characters, and we are even introduced to a few new ones as well.
The first novel was praised for introducing a main character of mixed race and also for including some discussion about racism. Of course, this is a good thing - our literature needs to reflect our society today. For me, the success of both novels is how these subjects are presented so naturally.
In the first story, the zoo's own future was threatened, but this time, as the title suggests, someone has stolen a snake - but this is no ordinary snake, oh no, but a rare Purple Albino Python. The situation requires Sara Mai to become a detective in order to solve the big mystery: 'who’s the snake thief?' At the start of her investigation, a number of her friends and colleagues come under suspicion. Is it a stranger who’s to blame or is there someone closer to home hiding right under her nose? No more spoilers from me sorry!
I think it was a wise decision to locate the story in such an interesting place as a zoo. After all, most people like animals, don’t they? I appreciated the facts about different animals that are sprinkled here and there in the book. I have to admit that I hadn't heard of a pademelon before! The animals provide opportunities to present topics such as loss, grief and relationships in a sensitive and relatable way.
I liked how the author turned things on it’s head with this novel. In the first one, Sara Mai was upset because someone had been saying nasty things about her. This time, we see that Sara Mai herself isn’t always perfect and she learns an important message about being kind and respecting others, even if they look different or have different interests.
The natural, easy-to-read language means that the Sara Mai books are perfect for 7-11 year olds and I would recommend these as novels that primary teachers should consider investing in.
Review by Morgan Dafydd
A review from www.gwales.com, with the permission of the Books Council of Wales.
Publisher: Y Lolfa
HAVE YOU READ THE FIRST BOOK IN THE SERIES?
♥BOOK OF THE MONTH: AUGUST 2020 ♥
♥WINNER Tir na n-Og 2021 ♥