Winner of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2017, and the British Book Awards’ Children’s Book of Year 2017
Forbidden to leave her island, Isabella Riosse dreams of the faraway lands her father once mapped.
When her closest friend disappears into the island’s Forgotten Territories, she volunteers to guide the search. As a cartographer’s daughter, she’s equipped with elaborate ink maps and knowledge of the stars, and is eager to navigate the island’s forgotten heart.
But the world beyond the walls is a monster-filled wasteland – and beneath the dry rivers and smoking mountains, a legendary fire demon is stirring from its sleep. Soon, following her map, her heart and an ancient myth, Isabella discovers the true end of her journey: to save the island itself.
What did I think?:
I’ve been wanting to read this book for the longest time! Debut author Kiran Millwood Hargrave won both the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize and the British Book Awards Children’s Book Of The Year in 2017 and with that stunning cover, I couldn’t resist much longer and made sure to suggest it to Chrissi when we were compiling our Kid Lit list for this year. In the end I have to admit, I wasn’t completely blown away by this book although there were many parts of it that I adored BUT I think if I had been the right age bracket for this novel, I would have rated it a lot higher. As a middle grade fiction read, it’s easy to fly through these pages in one sitting and both the fantastical and adventure elements are hugely appealing for children of both genders.
This is the story of Isabella Riosse who lives on a small island with her cartographer father under the tyrannical rule of the Governor whose daughter Lupe, Isabella happens to be best friends with. The Governor has cut off large portions of the land as forbidden and there are a lot of local legends about how the land used to be before the Governor’s time. Residents of the island are reminded that they are not permitted to venture beyond the forest into what is known as The Forbidden Territories so when the Governor’s daughter disappears there and is presumed lost, Isabella disguises herself as a boy and offers her map-reading skills to the Governor in the hunt to retrieve Lupe. Isabella is ecstatic at the prospect of seeing part of the land previously forbidden to everyone but is not entirely prepared for the journey she ends up going on, one that involves a desperate fight to save the land she loves dearly.
As I’ve mentioned, this story has a lot of things going for it and when I first started, I was in awe of how the author set the scene and introduced her characters, particularly Isabella. The world she lives in is fascinating and I was intrigued by the setup and history however this is also where the story fell down slightly for me. I just wanted more. I would have loved the author to have gone into more detail about the world including The Forbidden Territories and how the Governor came to power and I felt this was touched on too briefly and left me feeling slightly confused about how exactly everything happened. This was also the case with the characters, sadly. Isabella was a wonderful female protagonist and I loved her bravery and tenacity in helping her friend, especially considering the horrors she comes across along her incredible journey. She had such great potential and yet somehow, I still didn’t feel like I really knew her at the end of it all which was a shame. Saying all this, The Girl Of Ink And Stars is still a masterful, exciting story that I’m sure will capture the hearts of many children around the world. It’s fast-paced, very easy so read and packed full with the most brilliant magical elements that kept me constantly eager to turn the pages.
For Chrissi’s fantastic review, please see her blog HERE.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):
NEXT UP IN APRIL ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT: Ratburger by David Walliams.
This is a story about a boy named Kester. He is extraordinary, but he doesn’t know that yet. All he knows, at this very moment, is this:
1. There is a flock of excited pigeons in his bedroom.
2. They are talking to him.
3. His life will never be quite the same again…
What did I think?:
Welcome to a very special week on bibliobeth! On the 28th October 2015, many popular authors in the world of young adult fiction are coming together in Uxbridge, London for a days worth of inspiring talks and interesting workshops otherwise known as YA SHOT, spearheaded by the wonderful author, Alexia Casale. I’ll be writing a separate post soon about the day, but this week will see reviews of all three books in Piers Torday’s Last Wild series accompanied by an interview with the man himself. Later on this week, I will also review Jane Elson’s new novel – How To Fly With Broken Wings which will be followed by an interview/grilling on what inspired her to write this, her second novel. For now, it’s back to Piers and his best-selling debut novel, The Last Wild which was short-listed for the Waterstones Children’s Book award and nominated for many others, including the prestigious Carnegie Medal.
I knew I was going to enjoy The Last Wild when I read the synopsis (hey, it’s talking animals, always a plus point for me!) but I had no idea exactly how much I was going to love it. Our main character is a young boy called Kester, a modern day Dr Doolittle who finds he has a rather unusual gift for talking to animals after a rather strange meeting with a rather bold little cockroach. The world that Kester inhabits is in terrible peril where an unusual disease has wiped out almost all the animals on Earth and the humans are reduced to eating a bland food-stuff known as “formula,” to survive.
Kester is the first human the animals have been able to communicate with and they desperately need his help. After escaping from a home for “troubled children,” Kester manages to gain the confidence and trust from the last few animals that he can help them from becoming wiped out forever. Kester joins forces with Polly, a young girl whose parents have disappeared and even though he can’t communicate properly with her he has no such issues with a gentle stag, a boisterous wolf cub and the previously mentioned military cockroach, known as General of course (sir!). Kester has no idea however on how intense and dangerous his mission to save the last wild will become. There are villains aplenty, eager to thwart Kester at every turn, but also new friends to meet and protect, a cure to figure out and a world to change.
This is a fantastic and imaginative debut novel that I’m certain is destined to become a classic in the world of children’s literature. I love the animal characters and the bond that develops between them and Kester as the story develops and the adventure and excitement of the plot is non stop and intensely readable. I also enjoyed the message that the author was trying to get across which was combined with such a wonderful sense of humour and fun that it was always a treat to be reading it. Piers Torday has created a lovely little mystery within the plot and I can’t wait to see how it develops over the series and affects Kester as a character. I must also mention the illustrations in this novel by Thomas Flintham, especially the map at the beginning which let the reader picture the surroundings with perfect clarity. Finally, I have to mention the villains of the piece, who I absolutely loved to hate and who may go down in literature history as being some of the creepiest and creative individuals that just came alive and jumped off the page for me. A brilliant start to a beautiful and thought-provoking new series for children that will easily appeal to adults too, I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Kester and his Last Wild.
Visit bibliobeth tomorrow to read my interview with Piers Torday where we’ll find out the answer to what we all want to know – does he dog ear his books?!
Everyone thinks that Sophie is an orphan. True, there were no other recorded female survivors from the shipwreck which left baby Sophie floating in the English Channel in a cello case, but Sophie remembers seeing her mother wave for help. Her guardian tells her it is almost impossible that her mother is still alive, but that means still possible. You should never ignore a possible. So when the Welfare Agency writes to her guardian threatening to send Sophie to an orphanage, she takes matters into her own hands and flees to Paris to look for her mother, starting with the only clue she has – the address of the cello maker. Evading the French authorities, she meets Matteo and his network of rooftoppers – urchins who live in the sky. Together they scour the city for Sophie’s mother before she is caught and sent back to London, and most importantly before she loses hope.
What did I think?:
This fantastic children’s novel won the Waterstones Children’s Books prize for 2014 and after reading it myself as part of Chrissi Cupboard Month for December last year I heartily concur that it was a most deserving winner. It is Katherine Rundell’s second novel after her debut Girl Savage and was heavily influenced by her own night-time walks and adventures on the roof tops of Oxfords colleges whilst at university. The story opens beautifully, almost like a fairy-tale where a baby is found after a shipwreck floating in a cello case and wrapped in some manuscript. A gloriously eccentric but wonderfully kind man called Charles rescues her and brings her up as if she was his own child and she grows up as a fiercely independent and much loved little girl who knows her own mind from a very early age.
Unfortunately for Sophie and Charles the big wigs from Social Services don’t quite see it the same way. Sophie is often dresssed very oddly which perturbs them slightly but not as much as when the social worker, Miss Eliot pays a visit and discovers that they write each other notes on the wallpaper. Not “normal,” or “healthy” in her books although I tend to agree with Charles when he informs Miss Eliot that:
“On the contrary,” said Charles. “The more words in a house the better, Miss Eliot.”
Well said Charles! Miss Eliot however, has more to find fault with than just that and it is decided that Sophie must be taken away from a man that loves her dearly and whom she loves in return. Sophie has already been asking questions about her mother and she is determined that she is still alive and living in Paris, going by the label on the cello case where she was found as a baby. This gives Charles a marvellous opportunity to take Sophie and flee to Paris, where they hope to search for her mother. What Sophie is not expecting is to find a new life high up on the roof tops above the hustle and bustle of the capital with a courageous young boy called Matteo and his gang of orphaned children who may also be able to assist in finding her mother.
This is such a gem of a story that I think will appeal to adults as well as children and would be fantastic read aloud. I fell in love with Charles instantly and really enjoyed all his eccentric little ways, how he takes care of Sophie whist allowing her to be her own person and how he supports her without quarrel when she wants to find someone she has only dreamed about and who may be her only living blood relative. Katherine Rundell creates a magical world on the roof tops of Paris that will appeal to anyone with a sense of adventure and draws a strong character in her heroine Sophie that children will adore. I just know this book will become an instant classic that will continue to be enjoyed for years to come. Personally, I just can’t wait to see what the author does next, I’m certain it’s going to be great.