Karen Millwood Hargrave

LONGLIST REVIEW: The Girl of Ink & Stars

Joya is an Island full of myths and legends, steeped in history but now failing to thrive. Communities are hidden behind walls, beyond which are wastelands where it is rumoured evil beasts roam. Isabella Riosse lives in hope of one day leaving Joya and following in the footsteps of her father but until then her feet remain firmly planted.

Daughter of a map maker, Isabella has been brought up to believe that ‘Each of us carries the map of our lives on our skin, in the way we walk, even in the way we grow.’ Isabella’s heart is etched with the myths and legends of the Island which give her courage and determination. So when her best friend Lupe, daughter of the governor, vanishes beyond the walls, she is desperate to join the search party.

Knowing that a girl would never be taken seriously by the cruel governor and his men, Isabella dresses in the clothes of her deceased brother and offers her services to navigate the Island's perilous forgotten territories. As a cartographer’s daughter she is equipped with the skills and materials to map and chart the Island, but what she finds on her journey is beyond belief and more comparable to the childhood stories and legends she holds dear. Isabella soon realises it is not only Lupe that needs saving, but her Island home as well.

This debut novel by  Kiran Millwood Hargrave is a story of adventure, powerful friendships and bravery. Already an award winning playwright and poet, this beautifully written lyrical tale is a must read for anyone who loves books with courageous heroines. Recommended to more mature KS2 readers, this is a perfect Moving On book.

You can read chapter one of the book here, and see a video of Kiran Millwood Hargrave introducing the book here.

The Girl of Ink and Stars by  Kiran Millwood Hargrave, illustrated by Helen Crawford-White

Chicken House     ISBN: 9781910002742

JAB- favourite books of 2016! (part 5)


So, choosing one favourite book from 2016 was impossible and the cause of much fretting; how is a girl supposed to choose just one? I have narrowed it down as much as possible to these 5 fantastic reads (but really I have many, many favourites including all of our NSTBA 2016 shortlisted books)!

Picture Books

Max and Bird by Ed Vere (Puffin Books)

I am a picture book addict! I just cannot resist them. All of Ed Vere’s Max books are fab. I picked up a copy of Max and Bird in the summer and instantly fell in love with it. Max is a little cat with a huge amount of ‘cattitude.’ The vibrant and simple illustrations pounce off the page, with charm and just the perfect amount of scrappiness. In Max and Bird, Max meets a little bird and would really like to eat him up; Bird has another idea (which definitely does not involve being eaten) but he is open to negotiation. They settle on a compromise – Max will help Bird learn to fly and then Bird will consider allowing Max to eat him up. The story that follows is delightfully funny yet carries strong messages about the power of resilience and working together as the unlikely duo work with determination to reach their goal.

If you do not own any of the Max books, make it your New Year’s resolution to pop to a book shop and pick up a copy.


Books for Emerging Readers (and not-so emerging readers who just love illustrations and great stories)

Mango and Bambang by Polly Faber and Clara Vulliamy (Walker Books)

These beautifully illustrated books – perfect for little hands – look good enough to eat: the candy striped covers are almost ‘lickable’ (I say almost, because so far I shown restraint and not licked any of them). I love these stories. There are 3 books (so far…) and each book is split into 4 shorter stories making them perfect for younger readers and bedtime stories. They should not be limited to younger readers though. The lively illustrations and fun stories will appeal to readers of all ages – I had a group of Year 6 girls in my previous class who would argue over these books when they came into the library. Mango takes Bambang in after finding him disguised as a large, striped lump in the middle of a zebra crossing; he becomes her family (he is not a pet) and she loves him. Bambang is a hilarious character: perfectly odd, a gentle giant and very talented at getting himself into sticky situations (queue many mishaps, accidental adventures and hat-wearing). Ultimately, the stories are tales of friendship, family and unconditional love.


Quality Fiction

The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave (Chicken House)

This is a true adventure, brimming with magic and heart. The Girl of Ink and Stars is set in a land shrouded by myth and legends of fire demons; a land which its inhabitants are forbidden to leave; a land filled with secrets. Isabella, the young heroine of the tale, is captivating, determined and utterly fearless – I rooted for her throughout the story. She had grown up studying the maps of far-off lands which her cartographer father had crafted. She yearned to explore these distant places or even her own island, beyond the small village where she lived. However, going beyond the boundaries of the village was a forbidden by the harsh rule of the governor. When Isabella’s father goes missing, she volunteers to help in the search. Using her father’s maps, she guides the guides the men into the monster-filled wastelands beyond the walls of the village. Isabella soon discovers that there is truth to the legends. When the fire-demon stirs from its sleep, Isabella’s quest to find her father becomes a desperate fight to save her home. This really is one of those books that grabs you by the ankle and pulls you in – a thrilling and enchanting read.


Moving On

Paper Butterflies

by Lisa Heathfield (Electric Monkey)

I picked up a copy of this stunning novel at YALC. It hooked me inform the very first page and I read it in one sitting (which for me, as an incredibly s-l-o-w and easily distracted reader, is a real triumph). Paper Butterflies is a heartbreaking coming of age tale. It tells of the horrors of abuse. June is ‘trapped like a butterfly in a net.’ Trapped by the darkness and secrets, through fear and shame, June hides the truth of her life living with her stepmother and stepsister. Not even her father knows the truth of the pain she endures. Only when she meets Blister, a boy with a wild heart, does she begin to hope. Read the full review here.


Information Books

Animal Doctors – Incredible Ways Animals Heal Themselves by Angie Truis, Mark Doran and Julio Antonio Blasco (Laurence King Publishing)

2016 has been the year of beautiful non-fiction books for children: books where fact meets art; where exciting writing, packed with knowledge and explanation, stands alongside stunning illustrations. Animal Doctors is one such triumph.

Which bird uses a shampoo made out of ants? Which ape eats rocks for better digestion? Which reptile has its own antidote for snake venom? From the dusky-footed woodrat to the mountain gorilla, Animal Doctors takes you on a journey through the natural world, discovering the clever and, at times, miraculous ways that animals care for themselves and their young. Each page is filled with colour. Sketchy cartoon style illustrations add humour and character to the animal antics but sit side by side with realistic artwork. Each page has a fold out fact file filled with extra statistics and a fun doctor’s prescription. This book is perfect to delve in and out of as well as studying it from cover to cover.


My Christmas reading (and quite possibly my next favourites):


His Royal Whiskers by Sam Gayton, illustrated by Peter Cottrill (Andersen Press)

Dave Pigeon (Nuggets) by Swapna Haddow, illustrated by Sheena Dempsey (Faber & Faber)

A Wisp of Wisdom – Animal Tales from Cameroon by various amazing authors, illustrated by Emmie van Biervliet (Lantana Press)

Stand by for reviews in 2017!