Charlie and Me

421 Miles From Home

by Chandra Sundeep
Charlie & Me by Mark Lowery

Charlie and Me: 421 Miles From Home by Mark Lowery, is a sad yet hopeful story of brotherly love. This book is meant for early middle-graders, and despite being miles away from the targeted age group, I enjoyed this book to bits! This book deserves a charillion stars, and nothing less!

Narrated by 13-year-old Martin Tompkins, this is a beautiful coming-of-age story. Martin is going on a trip to Cornwall, a place 421 miles from home, along with his younger brother Charlie, aged 10. Sneaking out in the early hours while their parents are still asleep, Martin and Charlie embark on the journey of a lifetime, hoping to recreate their previous family vacation and to spot a dolphin.

But this is no ordinary journey! Filled with high humour, deep sadness, and anxious frustrating moments, this book held my attention and piqued my curiosity.

During the trains, bus, and car rides, we get to appreciate Charlie’s uniqueness and Marty’s caring nature. Armed with a backpack that has a few eatables and an omni-special-leftover-from-Christmas biscuit tin, which Martin promises to open on reaching St. Bernard’s, the brothers leave home. Despite Martin’s detailed planning, right from noting details of train times and stations, things go awry! En route, Martin encounters a scary-looking girl, Hen, whose unexpected kindness helps Marty accomplish his mission.

When I saw the cover picture with its beautiful illustration, I hoped to read a story of a carefree beach holiday. Boy! I wasn’t expecting it to be such an emotional roller-coaster.

Lowery’s writing is remarkable.

The boys’ character development and their affectionate bonding is realistic. Charlie, born prematurely, is not quite like the children his age. He suffers from various health problems, but his tongue-in-cheek humour makes him such an adorable kid! Marty, the older, caring brother, warmed the cockles of my heart. He displays a sense of maturity beyond his years. He anticipates Charlie’s actions and is ever prepared to deal with all emergencies and Charlie’s bursting enthusiasm.

Hen, a late entrant into the story, plays an important role and her character is equally well-developed. I could visualize her, with her make-up, attitude, et al. Her unlikely friendship with Martin is touching and reaffirming.

Though the parents are mostly missing from the story, their portrayal justifies the plot.

I loved the poems preceding every chapter. Written by Marty, they are warm and funny, and also depict his emotional turmoil.

Along the journey, apart from the lighter moments, there is a blanketing sense of dread and unease building up to a tear-jerking resolution.

This book would be a wonderful resource to discuss with children the topics of empathy, familial love, and kindness. Also, the large print, short chapters and pacing are perfectly designed for the intended audience.

This is the first book that I have read by Mark Lowery, but I am definitely going to check out his other stories.

Charlie and Me: 421 Miles From Home is heart-warming and exciting. The perfect balance of laughter, sadness, tension, and unexpected revelations make this a wonderful book.

Tip–Keep a box of tissue handy while going on this trip with Marty and Charlie.


Wordsopedia Rating 5/5

Title: Charlie and Me: 421 Miles From Home Author: Mark Lowery
Publisher: Piccadilly Press Publication date: January 11, 2018
Genre: Fiction–Middle Grade Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781848126220 No. of Pages:272

Buy your copy here on Amazon

About the author

Mark Lowery is the author of seven books for children and young adults, including “Charlie and Me – 421 Miles From Home” and the Roman Garstang Adventures.

Both of his first two books – “Socks Are Not Enough” and “Pants Are Everything” – were shortlisted for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize. “Socks Are Not Enough” was longlisted for the Branford Boase Award, and also won the Leeds Book of The Year Award and the Calderdale Book of the Year Award. “The Jam Doughnut That Ruined My Life” was shortlisted for the Children’s Book Award.

He is a primary school teacher and lives near Cambridge with his young family.

Get in touch with the author on his website.

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