The last firefox by Lee Newbery

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The Last Firefox by Welsh writer Lee Newbery is a warm and easy read for young people as they bridge the years from primary into secondary school. The story unfolds in the first person voice through the eyes of the wholly likeable main character Charlie Challinor. Charlie is a worrier. He is quiet and nervous. The story opens with Charlie escaping from a goose and the reader quickly realises that Charlie has many fears including being the target of two bullies - Will and Zack.

Charlie is in year six. He has two dads who are planning to adopt a baby. This is unsettling for him but he has a tree house to escape to and hang out in with his two best friends, Lippy and Roo. The current politically correct penchant for presenting a mixture of characters and family dynamics is addressed in a natural way. 

Looming over the small town of Bryncastell, in which Charlie lives, there is a crooked grey castle. Charlie ventures there alone as part of a game that he is playing with his friends. Through a mysterious vine covered door he encounters a boy from another world and he is forced to rescue and guard the last remaining firefox in the world. The agonies and dangers of trying to keep this lovely, vulnerable, furry, flammable fox secretly from everybody and safely away from a frightening otherworldly hunter make Charlie grow up and develop bravery fast.

The difficulties of the subterfuge, the need to protect a vulnerable fox and the risk from the sinister hunter enable Charlie's growth of trust in a widening group of people and the ability to stand up to bullies. With the development of maturity he is able to face the worries in his world.

In The last Firefox, Newbery has written a warm and engaging story that encompasses adventure, excitement, humour, a little bit of magic and a wonderful depiction of a young boy's development of confidence as he negotiates the personalities in his year six school classroom, changes in his home life and finding his place in his small town community. 

The text is accompanied by the delightful illustrations of middle grade book illustrator, Laura Catalan.

Young people, especially those in year six, will find The last Firefox an easy to engage with, enjoyable and relatable story.

Themes: Overcoming fear, Bullies, Changes, Friendship, Guardianship.

Wendy Jeffrey