A Drop of Golden Sun by Kate Saunders

A Drop of Golden Sun by Kate Saunders – at a glance

The School Reading Lists’ five word review: Friendship, new experiences, acting, France.
Children’s book title: A Drop of Golden Sun.
Children’s author: Kate Saunders.
Genre: Children’s fiction.
Published by: Faber Children’s.
ISBN: 9780571310982.
Recommended for children aged: 9-12 year-olds.
First published: Paperback March 2024.
This children’s book is ideal for: Discussing how sometimes a seemingly unattainable dream isn’t as far out of our reach as we think.

A Drop of Golden Sun

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Our review:

Jenny had never planned to be an actress but, as a very good tap dancer, she is invited to an audition for a film set in wartime France. Having only acted in her junior school’s musical adaptation of Alice in Wonderland she’s very nervous and sure everyone will think she’s rubbish! Amazingly, she gets the part and joins a friendly group of actors who, she’s surprised to discover, are also all a bit scared.

Although shy, Jenny is a friendly child and soon the four younger actors have become a close-knit group anxious to help each other in any way they can. Their temporary home in the French countryside is a peaceful haven and even though there are problems to solve and secrets to keep, Jenny can’t quite believe how wonderful life has become for her and her mum.

As her experience grows, everything gets better and better, and her confidence begins to rise. But halfway through the shoot, a well-known actor joins the cast and suddenly everything changes. Bad-tempered and rude he seems impossible to please, firing staff and regularly threatening to leave. Jenny and the other child actors are amazed by his behaviour and know they have to do something quickly or everything they’ve achieved will be ruined.

Our verdict:

This is a lovely, feel-good, novel where problems are revealed and then solved without too much angst. For that reason alone, it may be more suited to the younger end of this age range. Jenny, who is ten years old in 1973, is a quiet, sometimes lonely, child whose dad died when she was three. Her mum works long hours as a dentist but suddenly, to their mutual delight, they are relocating to France for the whole summer so Jenny can be one of the young stars of a new movie.

The film, obviously based on the Sound of Music, and its production takes up half of this novel while the remainder concentrates on the four child actors, their mothers, and the time they spend together. There are interweaving storylines covering loneliness, bullying, alcohol abuse, fragmented families, and mental health issues, all of which have been solved by the end of the book.

Clearly, life isn’t as simple as it is made out to be here, nor do I remember it being so in the early seventies, although authors like Enid Blyton also solved her protagonists’ problems in a reassuringly simple manner. Maybe sometimes, as happens here, we don’t need to make a drama out of everything but instead trust those around us to provide the help we need.

This is author Kate Saunders’s final novel as, sadly, she passed away in April 2023.

Teaching points and book club discussion ideas:

  • Discussing how sometimes a seemingly unattainable dream isn’t as far out of our reach as we think and that even those who are far more experienced can be unsure or a bit scared in new situations.
  • How life, and film making, in the early 1970s was very different to now with some of life’s problems becoming worse, or at least very different, because of the advances in technology.

Many thanks to Faber Children’s for the review copy.

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If you like A Drop of Golden Sun by Kate Saunders you might also like: our reviews of Winner Takes Gold by Eloise Smith, Best Friends Forever by Lisa Williamson, Nowhere Island by Tania Unsworth, Ajay and the Jaipur Moon by Varsha Shah, Kofi and the Rap Battle Summer by Jeffrey Boakye and The Rescue of Ravenwood by Natasha Farrant.

Browse our list of books for Year 5

About Tracy Wood

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I am a voracious reader and used to be a learning support assistant in a senior school for eight years before leaving to home school my now adult daughter. I have ten grandchildren who I love reading to and spending time with. Reviews by Tracy Wood