Review: The Lost Diaries of Charlie Small Vols. 1 & 2 by Nick Ward

Cover images by Nick Ward, published by Guppy Books
2nd February 2023

The Lost Diaries of Charlie Small, discovered by author and illustrator Nick Ward, are due for release in paperback by Guppy Books on 2nd February 2023. Aimed at children of 7-9 years old, they will make a great addition to any classroom or primary school library collection. Filled with doodles, maps, technical diagrams and riotous imagination, they are sure to appeal to a wide range of readers, the diary format being particularly accessible and enjoyable to read in those short bursts often encouraged in classrooms between blocks of work.

The first volume of Charlie Small’s lost diaries, Gorilla City, introduces us to twelve year old Charlie, a boy who clearly loves adventure given that he keeps a pre-packed rucksack loaded with all the essentials for a budding explorer. The stripy, ferociously strong humbugs, turning slightly sticky in their paper bag, will prove to be more useful than expected later in the story! Encouraged by his mum to make use of a break in the stormy weather and get some fresh air, Charlie sets out on the home-made raft moored on the brook at the bottom of his garden and is swept away on the rushing water into unknown territory…

As I mentioned in the introduction, the imagination runs wild in this adventure. Charlie encounters crow-sized dragonflies, a ravenous crocodile, an imperious silverback gorilla, a welcoming troupe of younger gorillas and a steam-punk rhinoceros invention designed by Jakeman’s Works, an entity which seems to be a recurring mystery in these books. The detailed schematics which Charlie has pasted into his diary will intrigue children with an interest in STEM subjects and the fast-paced, perilous encounters that Charlie describes will keep young readers turning the pages. At just over 130 pages, Gorilla City is an ideal length to give readers of 7 years old and above the satisfaction of reading a complete book independently. It ends with Charlie being hurled into a new environment and sets readers up to seek out the next set of diary entries…

Pirate Galleon, The Lost Diaries of Charlie Small Vol. 2 takes up at exactly the cliffhanger on which Gorilla City ended, with Charlie in the vice-like clutches of a crew of female pirates!

Escaping their first demand upon his life, he joins them as the captive cabin boy aboard the pirate ship The Betty Mae and is kept constantly exhausted from his duties cleaning and cooking for the motley crew. Despite his disapproval at their lifestyle, Charlie becomes an asset to Captain Cut-throat and her crew, fending off a variety of foe which include: a monstrous sea slug, a giant octopus and most fearsome of all, Thief-taker Craik who puts a huge bounty on Charlie’s life. Another invention from Jakeman’s Works makes a crucial appearance in this story, and once again the book is laced with fabulous illustrations, ingenious inventions and swashbuckling fun.

Will Charlie Small ever manage to free himself from his seafaring shackles? You will have to read his second volume of lost diaries to see where the ocean currents carry him.

I am most grateful to Liz Scott and Guppy Books for my gifted copies of these two books ahead of publication on 2nd February 2023.


3 thoughts on “Review: The Lost Diaries of Charlie Small Vols. 1 & 2 by Nick Ward

  1. I have these to read soon too, they sound like perfect fun and accessible reads for younger readers. The only question I have is I was surprised to read here the main character is 12 – do you think this feels odd or does it not really affect it much?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t think Charlie’s age really affects the content other than at the very start, when it is probably more believable that a 12 year old would be allowed to play on a brook on his homemade raft, rather than an 8/9 year old. The story content and format works well for lower KS2 as they gain confidence and would also work for a 10 year old who is maybe a reluctant reader.

      Liked by 1 person

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