Monday 26 May 2014

Children's book review : School For Stars : First Term at L'Etoile - Holly & Kelly Willoughby

Juliette was delighted with her latest book from the Orion Story Stars reviewing panel - the first book in the School For Stars series by Holly and Kelly Willoughby (yes, that's THE Holly Willoughby and her sister), called First Term at L'Etoile. It features a group of ambitious and talented young girls aiming to hit the big time as singers, dancers or actresses, perfecting their skills at the prestigious L'Etoile School for Stars. Imagine a cross between Mallory Towers and Glee and you've hit the nail right on the head.

There are a few obnoxious "daughters of", relying on their parents' fame and fortune to open doors for them, but this first novel features the gifted but down-to-earth and fun-loving twins, Maria and Molly Fitzfoster, along with their new room-mate, Pippa Burrows, who is there on a scholarship and feeling a bit inferior.

When the girls are invited to show just what they can do at an end of term show, knowing that the biggest talent scouts will be in amongst the parents, one of the girls is willing to go to great lengths to remove the competition. The book gives great life lessons about friendship, loyalty and being upfront and honest so, as you'd expect, the underdogs come out on top.

Juliette loved the girlie high-jinks and adventures, and the tales of midnight feasts and childish super-sleuthing really reminded me of my own childhood reading. There was only one little thing that slightly annoyed me - the frequent comments from a strange, disconnected narrator, whose constant references to "story-seekers" always made me think of Alan Freeman's "pop pickers" and who seemed to dumb down the narrative, pointing out links and inferences that I'm sure even young readers would be quite capable of making all by themselves. A couple of quick examples to show you want I mean - " When Helen was younger, she'd narrowly missed out on her dream of becoming a world-famous singer/songwriter, having sacrificed her career to look after someone who was ill.  - It is from this fact alone, Story-seeker, that you can tell the kind, selfless character of the lovely Miss Hart." Is that added explanation really necessary? Or another one that seemed even more pointless and invasive, at a key moment in the story - "Now Story-Seeker, at the risk of annoying you by interrupting at such a crucial moment, we're going to give you a couple of guesses as to what happened next. Can you guess? No? Then we'll continue." I must admit, when I was reading the book aloud to Juliette at bedtime, I took to skipping over the annoying narrator parts altogether !

One final thing that Juliette wanted me to point out - she thought that it was very funny (and we still can't work out if it was intentional or not !) that the School for Stars students are referred to as L'Etoilett es, which is pronounced exactly the same as "les toilettes" - toilets in French!

I asked Juliette if she'd be interested in reading the other books in the series and she said yes, which just goes to show that it gets her seal of approval.

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £4.99

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Orion Childrens (20 Jun 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1444008110
  • ISBN-13: 978-1444008111
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.8 x 2 cm

Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary

Disclosure : We received the book in order to write an honest review.

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Children's book review : Back to Blackbrick - Sarah Moore Fitzgerald

Early Reader book review : Where Are My Lambs? - Francesca Simon


  1. What a fantastic review! This book does sound very good (and funny! Les toilettes, haha!) but I can understand the irritation of the narration bits. I can also see the benefit - some children, especially younger readers might not be aware of foreshadowing and this is a good way to point it out to them. Thank you ever so much for linking up to #KidsCorner

  2. I think I'll skip reading this book, I'd be annoyed with the aside comments for sure. And I do love children's books.

  3. Sounds like a lot of books for tweens already out there, and the narrator sounds really annoying. I like how the students are called toilets though

  4. WOW I never knew Holly W had written a children's book or had a sister! Sounds great though and I bet my eldest daughter would love it!

    1. She's written a few in the series now. I didn't actually notice until I started writing the review and looked at the authors' names !!


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