Zephyr

Girl 38: Finding a Friend

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Girl 38 is Kat's comic strip creation- a super-heroine who is brave and bold and who Kat wishes she could be more like, particularly when dealing with her best friend, Gem. Things escalate when a new boy, Julius, arrives at school and Kat finds herself drawn into Gem's plan of action for Operation Loser Boy, a campaign of spite against him. As Kat questions her friendship, she takes solace in her new relationship with her neighbour, Ania, and the story she shares about her own experiences during World War II. Will Kat find the courage to do what she knows is right? And will she find the perfect ending for Girl 38?

Girl 38: Finding a Friend' is a powerful, beautifully written story which is perfect for children at the top of primary and into lower secondary. It highlights the importance of being true to yourself, of friendship and of valuing others. Weaving events from the past with those of the present, it is thought-provoking and challenging whilst being a very enjoyable read.

Each character is very well drawn. For example, Gem is thoroughly unpleasant, yet the reader is allowed glimpses of vulnerability which make her more rounded. Kat's parents are also well developed. Hard working and busy, they are still a real presence in her life: they have clearly seen through Gem and are not very happy about the friendship, but are supportive of their daughter's choices.

Friendship is a precious thing and is so important, but to flourish it needs to be formed on a basis of mutual trust, understanding and affection. When these elements are not there, it is easy to feel trapped- by habit, loyalty or fear- and things can go very wrong. Ewa Jozefkowicz manages to capture and explore these feelings perfectly through Kat's changing relationship with Gem, offering an excellent way into opening up discussions about what friendship really is. Would a true friend really act in this way? Would a true friend manipulate and control someone else like this? Without wishing to give too much away, it also illustrates the importance not letting others have access to your phone! The reader is able to share Kat's unease and sense of shame at her actions, her wish that she could be stronger and make a stand whilst recognising her reasons for the choices she makes.

The relationship between Ania and Kat is wonderful, illustrating the importance of support and friendship across generations. Oral history is precious and fascinating and as Ania shares her story, both she and Kat gain from the experience. Ania's Polish heritage is also valued , adding colour and realism to the story.

What a way to start my New Year's reading! 'Girl 38' is an excellent read and one which I will be recommending to anyone who will listen! Brilliant!

Girl 38: Finding a Friend Ewa Jozefkowicz

Zephyr ISBN: 978-1786698971

Published March 2019

You can read our review of ‘The Mystery of the Colour Thief’ here.

A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars

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Saved as a baby from a terrible shipwreck, Sante lives with her adoptive family of Mama Rose and her circus performers and a golden eagle named Priss. They live ‘off the grid’, roaming from country to country, performing as they travel and, although hard, life is good. With Cat- wild and feisty knife thrower- and Cobra- snake charmer and her possible future husband- Sante is the star of the show.

A ‘mind whisperer’, Sante can tune into the thoughts of others and has a mystical connection with those who died in the wreck she survived, the unquiet dead in search of peace. When the children rescue a young girl called Scarlett, tension mounts as they become mixed up with evil and past and present collide.

No synopsis of this book can even begin to do it justice. It is the most original, amazing read, painful in places, but beautifully written. Haunting brutality and exploitation contrast starkly with the magical and supernatural.

Quite simply- this is one you must read.

A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars Yaba Badoe

Zephyr ISBN: 978-1786695482

The Mystery of the Colour Thief

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Since her mother's accident, Izzy's dreams have been plagued by a sinister, shadowy figure and the colours are draining from the mural depicting scenes from Izzy's life as painted by her mother. With her father struggling to cope and Izzy's best friend acting very strangely, nothing is as it should be.

Then Izzy meets Toby, her new neighbour, who does not let being in a wheelchair limit what he can do and together, they plot to help a cygnet which they name Spike. As Toby's positive attitude and persistence start to rub off on her, will Izzy find the courage to solve the mystery of the colour thief?

This is such a good read! The story sensitively explores a complex range of emotions, the need to share feelings and the true value of friendship. Izzy is a very engaging character whose confusion and loneliness in the situation she finds herself in are poignantly depicted- particularly for her mother, but also by the betrayal of her best friend. The loss of colour in the mural echoes feelings of depression whilst the growing strength of the cygnet, Spike, mirrors the improvement of Izzy's mental health as her feelings change. 

Toby is also brilliantly developed. Izzy's need for a reliable friend as Lou, her erstwhile best friend, has deserted her and is now victimising her is filled by this inspiring, positive young man, who has had his own trauma to come to terms with. The opportunity to listen to him and to share her thoughts in return supports Izzy and allows her to solve the mystery of the colour thief. 

Beautifully written, this is a must for encouraging empathy as well as being an excellent story. Highly recommended!

The Mystery of the Colour Thief       Ewa Jozefkowicz

Zephyr     ISBN: 978-1786698940