Reviews /

The Good Turn

Authored by Sharna Jackson
Published by Penguin Random House Children's UK

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After finding a list of possible baby names pinned to the fridge by her mother and father, names for the brother her mum is expecting, Josie, the narrator of The Good Turn decides to investigate the origins of her own name. She finds out about Josephine Holloway, who created the first Girl Scout troop for Black girls in America in 1924. This, in turn, gives Josie an idea, and she forms The Copsey Three with her two friends, Wesley and Margot. A ‘youth group for good’ named after the cul-de-sac the three children live in, The Copseys set about making good things happen. They create The Copsey Code in which they promise to be truthful and trustful, proactive, resilient, true allies, thoughtful and caring, and they begin by clearing the litter from an elderly neighbour’s garden. But Josie has noticed lights in the disused factory which sits behind Copsey Close, and while earning their Camping Badge by camping in the overgrown area, which includes the abandoned factory, the children see more strange happenings. This proves to be the start of The Copsey’s first adventure.

The three main protagonists, Josie, Wesley and Margot, are at the heart of this engaging and lively adventure story. Josie is the leader. She is a headstrong and restless child whose heart is in the right place and who is always planning new missions and schemes. Her best friend Wesley cares for his ill mother and has siblings who rely on him. Wesley understands Josie, following her plans with a sense of reluctance and knowing. But Wesley is also a warm-hearted and kind character. Margot, who has recently moved into Copsey Close, is new to the trio. Margot is eager to please. She wants to be a writer and carries a notebook everywhere with her. The relationships between the three friends, not without tensions, feel authentic. These characters are endearing, and we root for them and their social activism. Chapter headings, tag lines and Wesley’s drawing of the setting add fun to the events.

The Good Turn deals with themes of injustice, trust, friendship, activism and community. Political themes within this novel are presented with care. There is depth to this story and much to explore and discuss, for example, issues of homelessness and immigration. It would spark many interesting discussions with an upper KS2 class and would make an excellent read-aloud book. Individual readers who enjoy detective novels or who have read previous books by Sharna Jackson will also love this novel.