The Star Outside My Window by Onjali Rauf Age 10+

The Star Outside My Window is a beautiful, often heartbreaking, but ultimately inspiring story of hope in the bleakest of circumstances. Dealing with the very difficult topic of domestic abuse and the devastating social, physical and psychological effects it can have on children is no easy task but Onjali  totally succeeds in writing a truly stunning and powerful story. Although there are sad and quite devastating moments, The Star Outside My Window remains a story of positivity, hope and friendship.

Noah and his elder sister, Aniyah, are settling into their new foster home with their new foster family. Their foster mum is ever so kind and the rest of the foster children are mainly friendly, but it’s not home and it’s not mum and dad. Aniyah is a Star Hunter and we discover that their mum has left them to become a star in the sky where she can watch over them. Aniyah hopes that their dad will come and find them soon to take them home.

When a new star is discovered and is reported on the news, Noah and Aniyah just know it is their mum and they set off on a mission with their new friends to make sure the star is named after their mum. It is an adventure that tests the power of trust and friendship and ultimately leads them to the devastating truth.

I cannot stress what an absolutely stunning and powerful  book this is, which reminds us of the struggles that many families are going through every day. It had me in tears but also had me in fits of laughter. It is an utterly pure story about hope and belief.

I quite simp!y loved this book and I urge everyone to read it. 81UzDC86PBL.jpg

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Charlie’s Promise by Annemarie Allan Age 8-12

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Charlie’s Promise is a wonderful tale of friendship and empathy, set against a backdrop of impending war.  It is a beautifully and skilfully written story that makes you feel like you are a part of it.  The characters are so real and likeable and the settings are exquisitely described and feel utterly familiar.

Set not far from Edinburgh prior to the outbreak of WW2, it focuses on Charlie and his friend Jean who are happily oblivious to the events that we know are building up to the outbreak of war.  Their lives are about to change, however, when they stumble upon a lost, starving, dirty boy who speaks no English in the local woods.  They manage to work out that is name is Jozef and that he is terrified, alone and scared of adults, particularly those in uniform. We are not sure why and how he is there, but Charlie decides that he will promise to help Jozef on a journey to get him to Edinburgh where he hopes to find someone he knows.

Charlie’s Promise is a magnificent story about friendship, trust and empathy.  The relationship between the children transcends language and nationality and the innocence of childhood is expertly explored as the children take on a world that they don’t yet quite understand.  Overall, Charlie’s Promise is an outstanding, enjoyable adventure which I absolutely adored.  It would be a fantastic book to use to explore events surrounding the outbreak of World War 2, both at home and with a class.

Charlie’s Promise by Annemarie Allan is published by Cranachan Publishing. (https://www.cranachanpublishing.co.uk/)

 

 

White Fox by Chen Jiatong, originally reviewed for Books for Topics

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White Fox is the magical tale of an orphaned white fox cub, Dilah, who wants more than anything to be human. The story is beautifully translated by Jennifer Feeley from the original Chinese novel by author Chen Jiatong.

Dilah the fox cub wants to be human. He watches humans with interest and has a deep desire to become part of their world. Tragedy strikes and Dilah returns home to find his mother dying as she shares a secret with him that will change his life forever. She tells him about a treasure with the power to turn animals into humans and the key to its location is contained in a magical moonstone that just happens to be buried beneath their den.

So begins an epic quest and an enthralling adventure, involving sinister blue foxes who are also on the trail of the treasure and some wonderful characters who accompany Dilah on the different legs of his journey. Alongside Dilah’s adventure, the reader is engulfed by his fascination with humans and his desire to become human. The narrative is cleverly written to give the perspective of an animal while powerfully exploring our differences and similarities.

Overall, White Fox is a beautifully enchanting story about following your dreams and valuing the people (or animals, in this case) that you meet along the way who shape your journey. It is a tale of friendship; of the highs and lows of life and of the difference that we can all make to one another. On top of this, it is a thoroughly enjoyable read. I cannot wait to read the next chapter in Dilah’s journey.

Many thanks to Books for Topics for the review copy.

Invisible in a Bright Light by Sally Gardner

There is something very exquisite about how this book is presented. I have run my hands over its cover countless times. It really is a beautiful, enchanting and enticing book, that pulls you in from the off. Utterly magical and gorgeous.

It tells the story of Celeste, a lowly theatre worker at the Royal Opera House. One day she wakes up to find that everyone thinks she is somebody else – a talented young dancer. From then on we encounter a mysterious man in an emerald green suit, a shipwreck, a crashing chandelier and a dangerous game called the Reckoning, that Celeste is a participant in. The story winds and twists against the backdrop of a dark and haunting atmosphere.

The story is one of magic and mysticism and it is a wonderfully crafted work of storytelling. It has a very surreal feel to it, always blurring the lines of reality. The central character of Celeste is a brave and engaging girl who I absolutely loved.

Invisible in a Bright Light is total masterpiece of imagination. It is beautifully written, utterly engaging and full of mystery and excitement. A brilliant novel that lingers long after reading. An absolute must read.

Thank to Zephyr Books for the review copy.

The Stone of Destiny by Caroline Logan Published by Cranachan Age 13+

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I am so excited to be hosting today’s leg of The Stone of Destiny blog tour.  Thank you to Cranachan Publishers for sending me a copy to read and review.

The Stone of Destiny is author Caroline Logan’s debut novel and it is the first in a series of fantasy books aimed at a young adult audience.  This is a book that ticked all my boxes. It is epic fantasy tale brimming with adventure and is full of fantastic, wonderful mythical creatures.  It is a story dripping in folklore and legend and it has a real Scottish heart to it.  Everything that I love!

Ailsa lives an isolated existence.  Shunned by locals who consider her some kind of monster due to the strange mark on her face, she has grown accustomed to fending for herself and being alone. But this suddenly changes when she rescues two selkies who are being hunted by raiders.  From then on Ailsa’s life changes forever as she sets out on an epic adventure with her new companions and the Prince of Eilanmor on a journey to find The Stone of Destiny.  However, something has been stalking her.  Along the way Ailsa discovers that she is not just on a journey to find the object that protects them, she is also on a journey to find herself and to discover who she really is.

The Stone of Destiny is an absolutely magnificent epic adventure that I could not put down.  It  is full of excitement, mystery and romance and I was always rooting for Ailsa on her quest.  In Ailsa, the author has created a strong young woman who I absolutely loved.  I really can’t wait for the next book to come out!  You absolutely must go and read this!  Absolutely brilliant stuff.

The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club by Alex Bell

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I had heard so many brilliant things about The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club and when I got some book vouchers for my birthday it was one of my immediate choices. However, that was back in May and somehow my poor copy managed to sit in my TBR pile for the next 3 months, never quite getting to the top, until finally I decided to delve in.  And wow, how glad I am that I did. It is a book that I wished that I could have read as a child. It is an adventure about following your dreams, being brave, friendship and having confidence in yourself.

Stella Starflake Pearl lives with her adoptive father, Felix, who is a member of the renowned Polar Bear Explorers’ Club and spends much of his time on expeditions  to discover new and exotic places.  Stella is desperate to accompany Felix on one of his trips but is frustrated that girls are not allowed.  Until one day everything changes and Felix allows Stella to accompany him on the expedition to the Icelands.

When Stella meets up with the other children on the trip we join them on an adventure of a lifetime, where we meet giant yetis, carnivorous cabbages and much more as we follow them on a journey of friendship and understanding.

The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club is a thrilling tale of adventure with a real heart.  It is a book that I genuinely couldn’t put down. I would absolutely 100 per cent recommend it to everybody, young and old, and I can’t wait to read more Alex Bell’s brilliant tales.

Interview with Emily Ilett, author of The Girl who Lost her Shadow

Emily Ilett’s debut novel, The Girl who Lost her Shadow is out now.  It is an incredible story that focuses on mental health issues and knowing when to ask for help. With themes of bravery and friendship it is an absolute must for readers 10 +.  Read my interview with Emily below.

Where did you get your inspiration from for The Girl who Lost her Shadow?

I’m trying to think backwards to remember why I was thinking about shadows in the first place. But I can’t! I find this is generally how it goes with the stories I write. They grow slowly, and almost without me noticing at first.

Around four or five years ago I wrote a short story about a girl who lost her own shadow and who gained a mountain’s shadow instead. It was a few pages long and when I’d finished it, I discovered that I hadn’t really finished it at all. The story was still growing in my mind, and The Girl Who Lost Her Shadow is what it grew into over the next few years. During this time, the question that was in my mind was: why might a shadow disappear?

I brought to this question things I care a lot about, including conservation and mental health awareness, and things I wanted to know more about – in this case, sea creatures and the underwater world. Through the research process I have discovered sea creatures I’d never dreamed of before, I’ve read about endangered species here in Scotland, I’ve learned about all kinds of different ways creatures communicate with each other and I’ve listened to a lot of beautiful whale song.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?  What has been your journey to get to publication?

I’ve always loved stories and losing myself (and finding myself) in books and when I was younger I definitely wanted to be a writer – if I got a new notebook for a birthday or Christmas I’d write firmly at the beginning: This is the story that I will finish. I never did, of course. The middle always proved a little too difficult, beginnings are so much more exciting…

After school, I did a degree in Environmental Art, and while I was doing this course I rediscovered my love of writing and began to write flash fiction pieces and playful stories folded into origami shapes. Later, I took an MLitt in Creative Writing and discovered after two weeks of trying to write grown up literature that I was at heart a children’s writer. It was an exciting discovery! I was then lucky enough to be awarded the Mhairi Hedderwick Writing for Children Award to attend a course at Moniack Mhor – a writing centre in the Highlands – which introduced me to lots of talented and inspiring children’s writers.

A couple of years later, I found out that The Girl Who Lost Her Shadow had won the Kelpies Prize 2017 and from then I entered into a whirlwind of editing. And now I’m here, my first children’s book is out in the world and I can’t quite believe it!

What was your favourite subject at school?

I enjoyed English and Art at school. In English I got to study some amazing books and poetry, including Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and I’ve always loved to draw. I like how it can be messy, fluid, gentle, wild, or slow. I still try and draw now when I have time, especially in ink, I want to get better at it. I tend to think in images (which isn’t always the best thing for a writer!) and have a huge admiration for illustrators. More surprisingly, I’m a very big fan of algebra.

What was your favourite book/books when you were a child?

When I was a child I read anything I could get my hands on but two of my favourite writers were Tamora Pierce and Robin Jarvis. In Tamora’s The Song of the Lioness series and the Circle of Magic I fell in love with all her fierce and flawed heroines, especially Alanna and Daja, enthralled by their magic and adventures. Robin Jarvis’s Deptford Mice, Wyrd Museum trilogy and Whitby Witches books introduced me to dark mysterious worlds of mythology and fate, which terrified and intrigued me in equal measure. And finally, Lyra’s stubbornness and Iorek’s loyalty made Philip Pullman’s The Northern Lights the book of my childhood and one I continue to return and reread again and again.

What are favourite current children’s books?

There are so many fantastic children’s books at the moment! My TBR pile is so tall it is forever teetering on the edge of catastrophe… Some of my recent favourite reads have been the open-hearted, moving and funny The Boy at the Back of the Class by Onjali Q. Raúf; the unusual Fish Boy by Chloe Daykin; and Little Bits of Sky by S. E. Durrant, a quiet story about  two young children in care which stayed in my mind long after I finished reading it. I also want to mention The Goldfish Boy written sensitively and beautifully by Lisa Thompson, about a young boy struggling with OCD, and my current read which I am very excited about – Asha & The Spirit Bird by Jasbinder Bilan!

Have any authors been a particular inspiration to you?

Tove Jansson has a very special place in my heart. I remember the first time I read The Summer Book, I think my eyes were all wide and my mouth hanging open the whole time. I didn’t think a book could be so quiet and beautiful and curious. I’ve since read the Moomin books and continue to be astonished by the sheer generosity of her writing. She will always be a writer I return to when I forget how much a sentence can hold and still be so simple.

I know lots of young people who have dreams of becoming a writer when they are older. Do you have any words of advice for them?

Hello young writers! I’m so excited to meet you and your stories in the future. There is a lot of helpful writing advice out there – enough to lose yourself in for days – and so what I really want to say is to be gentle with yourself. Be nice to yourself. Trust yourself, because you definitely can do it. You’re wild enough and brave enough and compassionate enough to write all the stories you want to write. I know it’s difficult to finish a story – it’s the hardest bit maybe – but keep going and you’ll get there one day. I know it.

The Girl who Lost her Shadow is out now, published by Floris Books.

https://www.florisbooks.co.uk/book/Emily-Ilett/Girl+Who+Lost+Her+Shadow/9781782506072

Children's Book Reviews

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