Tag Archive for Thompson Lisa

The Light Jar by Lisa Thompson

the light jarLisa Thompson excels at illuminating the darker, scary and more painful side of life, even when it penetrates children’s lives, and then shining a positive light on the situation and making the world glow brighter with hope.

Her first novel, The Goldfish Boy, shed some light on OCD, its effects, misunderstandings about it by peers, and the wretched humiliation it can cause (and yet all neatly tied up in a children’s mystery book). This latest, The Light Jar, enlightens the reader about even darker issues, including the effects of psychological abuse, the terror of being abandoned, and fears about darkness, but again does so in a clever and warm way, so that it never feels as if the issues highlighted overshadow the story or are so dark that they are inappropriate for the readership.

Nate and his mother run away to a tumbledown cottage, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. On the second day, Nate’s mother leaves to buy provisions, but never returns. But it turns out, he’s not completely alone, for comfort shines at him in the way of friendship from a mysterious girl called Kitty, solving a treasure hunt nearby, as well as the surprising appearance of a friend from the past.

Thompson intersperses Nate’s fear of being left alone, and worry for his missing mother, with humour in the way of a stray chicken and Nate’s Magic 8 ball, and a simply marvellous book that Nate carries round called ‘Freaky Things to Freak You Out’, a type of non-fiction mystery book. The book inspires Nate to solve Kitty’s treasure hunt, and provides humorous elements to the story. Indeed, although Nate doesn’t forget his fearful situation, Kitty’s treasure hunt propels the plot with an engrossing mystery to solve, and actively involves the reader by including rhyming clues within the text.

But with light, comes darkness too, and here Thompson crafts it in the way of Nate’s memories, which gradually show that Nate and his mother are escaping an abusive relationship with his mother’s new boyfriend. No physical violence is explored, but instead a creeping psychological abuse that’s threatening and horrifying to live through. Thompson deals with this gently, and with enormous understanding. The most interesting memory is that of Nate bringing home a friend for tea, and how the boyfriend deals with the situation. The manipulation of the play date is well handled, and the author here cleverly invokes both incredible sympathy for Nate, as well as empathy with the friend, who although he doesn’t realise what is going on, and isn’t friendly afterwards, would enable the reader to think twice in such situations before dismissing a friend so easily – there may be much going on behind closed doors, and awareness and understanding are key.

There’s no technology in the book (mobile phones/wifi etc) – characters must do away with traceable technology when they’re on the run, and the lack of it adds an extra dimension to the story, as well as intriguingly letting the plot remain highly contemporary and realistic. At first, the book reminded me of The Secret Life of Daisy Fitzjohn by Tania Unsworth, another novel in which a child is seemingly abandoned by her mother and left within a crumbling house. And although there are similar fears and imaginings, The Light Jar soon veered off into different territory.

What both have in common though, is an expert handling of suspense, and text that flows effortlessly, engaging and enthralling the reader. Although The Light Jar has an horrific topic in the shadows, it feels both clever and warm and points to the wonder and light of friendship and hope.

There’s much light in Thompson’s writing; you’d be mad to keep it in the dark. You can purchase your copy here.


My First Novel (age 9) by Lisa Thompson

I’m delighted to welcome onto the blog today a guest post from author Lisa Thompson. The Goldfish Boy was my first book of the week for 2017 – you can catch my review here. Below, Lisa tells us about what inspired her to write her first book, aged nine. 

When I was nine, the one thing I really wanted to do more than anything in the world was learn how to ride a horse. We lived next door to a family whose daughter was also horse-mad. Her bedroom had horse wallpaper, a horse light shade, piles of books about horses and the best thing of all; a beautiful display of colourful rosettes. Yes – she actually had riding lessons whereas I was still tying my skipping rope onto my bike handlebars to make reins. The jealousy factor turned up to 11 when she eventually got her own horse. They kindly took me to the stables to meet him and okay, maybe horses were a bit scary close-up but I still really, really wanted riding lessons.

I grew up in a small terraced house in a suburban town and although we weren’t struggling for money, we certainly didn’t have any to spare for lessons, so my parents said no. I used to watch my neighbour get into their car wearing her boots and jodhpurs and my stomach used to knot with envy and sadness. Not only could I not have riding lessons but I was now losing my friend who was spending every available second at the stables.

So, what did I do to vent this frustration?  I wrote a book.

I didn’t write about a girl wanting to ride, I wrote about a girl who rescued horses and opened a sanctuary – I was thinking BIG. For each chapter my main character would remarkably stumble across an abandoned horse which instantly fell in love with her. She’d somehow persuade her parents to let her keep it (on their conveniently vast farm full of empty stables) and then after that one was safe, she’d somehow find another horse that needed her help. On the occasional page I drew a picture of the girl, and the horses. Chestnut ones, piebald ones, skewbald ones, palomino – I knew all the names and I coloured them in using felt tip pens.

I was utterly engrossed. This was a defining moment for me because this was the first time I felt what I can only describe as ‘writing euphoria’. It’s the moment where you are so absorbed in your writing you forget where you are, the words just flow on and on. It’s wonderful feeling.

Then I got to a difficult part in the book and it dawned on me that all of the rescued horses were found just wandering around the area which was, in fact, a completely ridiculous idea. I put the book in a drawer and forgot all about it.

A few years later my friend next door moved away and although we didn’t keep in touch I heard in later years that she ended up owning her own stables. This makes me really happy. I did get to go on a horse once when I was around twenty-one and it was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life which I wouldn’t want to repeat.

And then of course there was my book about the girl and the rescued horses. Unfortunately, I found it when I was a teenager and thought it was the most embarrassing thing I’d ever seen. I ripped it up into tiny pieces and put it in the bin.

But although the book was gone I didn’t forget that feeling I had when I was writing it. An idea had been planted and it niggled at me for decades afterwards – maybe one day I could be a writer? How I’d love to go back to see my nine-year-old self now and say; “Well done, kid.  You did it.”

Lisa Thompson worked as a radio broadcast assistant first at the BBC and then for an independent production company making plays and comedy programmes. During this time she got to make tea for lots of famous people. She grew up in Essex and now lives in Suffolk with her family. The Goldfish Boy is her debut novel.

The Goldfish Boy is available now, and you can buy it here.

The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson

A pacey page-turning mystery mashes with an ‘issue’ story in this latest middle grade novel, which won me over with its cunning charm and sympathetic lead character.

Twelve-year-old Matthew Corbin suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder to the extent that he has imprisoned himself within certain rooms of the family house. He spends his days watching out the window – either of his own bedroom or the office/nursery in the upstairs of his house. This device, as anyone who has ever done any surveillance or curtain-twitching, can lead to surprising and interesting discoveries. Matthew takes copious notes of his neighbours’ comings and goings – some humorous, some intriguing.

When a sleek car pulls up in the road and delivers two children to their grandfather, in the house next door to Matthew, things in the neighbourhood start to shake up. Particularly when one of the two children disappears.

Light compelling prose is interspersed with Matthew’s notes on his neighbours, which lightens the text even further, and the chapters are short and pithy, so that the novel skips along at pace. The observations are funny and astute:

“Mr Charles could have been anything from sixty-five to ninety-five – he never seemed to get older. I thought he’d just found an age he quite liked and just stopped right there.”

What’s more, although the book contains a clever mystery – can the reader work out who has taken the child before Matthew does – Lisa Thompson deals sensitively with the issue at hand – OCD.

This is a book for eight year olds and over, so of course, simplicity rules in dealing with the emotional complexity of mental health. Thompson skims over any difficulties with children’s mental health services, and merely touches the surface of the excruciating physical pain that comes with obsessively washing hands and using strong cleaning products, but she does include some brilliant nuggets of truths in dealing with the issue. That a person with OCD can’t just stop it because they’re told to, that it’s not a result of being an overly ‘tidy’ person – but that there is usually a complex reason behind it. With Matthew, Lisa makes the reason fairly simplistic and drops large clues throughout the novel that point to it, with an ending that gives massive hope for recovery.

However, she does also include the heartache that goes along with mental health issues – from the reaction of strangers and neighbours to the illness, to the absence from school and friendships – and, most telling, the agonies of Matthew’s parents. For young readers this will just come across as a shadow of anxiety that falls across Matthew’s life – borne out sometimes by his father’s frustration, and his mother’s hurt, but other readers will also pick up on how they wrestle with what to do in the situation. There’s a strong background of hurts not only in their lives, but in the neighbours’ hidden pasts, and these are all hinted at during the novel. No one’s behaviour goes unexplained.

In fact, for me, this is what propels this novel to book of the week. Each character behaves weirdly if judged simply from Matthew’s notebook – the girl who visits a graveyard almost daily, the bully, the old lady who keeps a light on 24 hours a day, the awkwardness in their dealings with each other, (and Matthew is adept here at looking at body language as well as actions). But each character’s own quirks and perceived weirdness is gradually explained through knowledge and empathy.

So yes, mental health is addressed, and the book features a missing child, but there are so many elements of humour and so many incidents of sympathy and hope that this isn’t a dark novel. It’s poignant, uplifting, and essentially pretty positive. All in all there is more to a person than the quirk with which they are labelled, in the same way that this book is much more than just about OCD. Scratch the surface – there is much more to gain.

Publishes 5th January, although I have already seen copies in the shops, and you can buy it here.