The Accidental Stowaway by Judith Eagle

The Accidental Stowaway – at a glance

The School Reading Lists’ five word review: drama, intrigue, adventure, pacey, surprise.
Children’s book title: The Accidental Stowaway.
Children’s author: Judith Eagle.
Children’s illustrator: Kim Geyer.
Genre: Middle grade novel.
Published by: Faber Children’s.
ISBN: 9780571363124
Recommended for children aged: 9-12.
First published: Paperback August 2022.
This children’s book is ideal for: children interested in adventure, history and travel.

The Accidental Stowaway by Judith Eagle

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Our review:

Esme Leonard is given the nickname Patch almost from the moment she is born, at the end of the nineteenth century. Her mother has disappeared and no one has any idea of who her father might have been. A solicitor, Mr Ringe, is put in charge of her welfare and she is passed around between various relatives living in different parts of the country.

In Liverpool, after a misunderstanding in a sweet shop, and having briefly met a deck-hand from a posh passenger liner, she finds herself running through the docks and hiding in one of the lifeboats on RMS Glorious, bound for New York and due to arrive there five days later. She can’t get off in time and so becomes a stowaway.

The Accidental Stowaway by Judith Eagle illustration

Here she meets, one by one, the characters who populate the drama which unfolds over the following 270 pages: the American boy Turo from the sweet-shop incident, another girl, Lilian, about the same age as Patch and apparently from a rich family, a vindictive chief steward intent on sniffing out any undesirables on board, a criminal gang at work on a scheme to kidnap a wealthy passenger, and many others, including another stowaway.

Hardly anyone is who they seem and as the action accelerates and hurtles towards its final resolution, we, and Patch, gradually piece together the truth about their identities and past lives. There are chases, near disasters, escapes, thrilling cliff-hangers and a small dog. I can’t say much more without giving away the ending, but the biggest surprise awaits Patch herself.

This is an intricately woven and skilfully paced story which I’m sure will keep readers aged nine to twelve gripped to the end. Being set in 1910 it also provides many starting points for discussion, about class, the perceived status of women at that time and the working conditions endured by most people.

Many thanks to Faber Children’s for the review copy. There’s a free set of resources for teachers on the publisher’s website.

If you like The Accidental Stowaway by Judith Eagle you might also like: our reviews of Voyage of the Sparrowhawk by Natasha Farrant, The Pear Affair by Judith Eagle, The Pearl in the Ice by Cathryn Constable and Antigua de Fortune of the High Seas by Anna Rainbow and Oli Hyatt.

Browse our list of books for year 4 and books for year 5.

About Laurence Inman

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Laurence is an actor, poet, short-story writer, playwright, screenwriter, cartoonist, public speaker, retired lecturer, and former English teacher. IMDb | Linkedin | Reviews by Laurence Inman