I am so grateful that this book landed on my doormat because this book, my goodness, this book has something incredible within its pages, something that stirs the soul and reaches in for the magic buried deep inside us.
If you love the way that Sophie Anderson threads oral storytelling and folk tale tradition into accessible and engaging tales, Moonchild is certainly the book for you. Beautifully different from Aisha’s stunning debut A Pocketful Of Stars which features magical in mundane yet retains the same warmth and brutal honesty about the frustrations of tipping over into adolescence.
With illustrations by Rachael Dean sprinkled throughout adding magic and wonder, and just the right balance of gentle care and imagination for the middle grade audience.
Twelve year old Amira has spent her life on board the Tigerheart as her sea witch mothers steer course through the Sahar Peninsula. Ever accompanied by her jinn Namur a magical cat, she can read the stars, sea and sky and human emotions.
But after a terrible storm forces them to make port, Amira realises that something is brewing and she is at the centre of it, as she finds adventures with mermaids, jinni, a boy Scientist, a Midnight Souk filled with magical spells exchanged for tales, and an adventure to rescue what is most precious and in the process find herself.
Later that night, when the moon was at its highest and the lingering clouds had faded into the darkness, Amira and her mothers gathered for a story.
What I particularly loved about this book is the wide spread of mythology and stories both traditional and modern that Aisha has drawn on for this world. From Scheherazade’s 1001 Arabian Nights to Studio Ghibli there is something that will pull at the soul, but especially for those well indulged in the beauty of storytelling.
As a fan of Studio Ghibli myself my heart flipped in joy at subtle references such as to Kiki’s Delivery Service and the inspiration from Ponyo in how Leo meets his jinn amongst others.
My soul soared at the way Aisha blends World mythology such as of djinn, Firebirds, mermaids and enchanted islands but in a beautifully fresh and exciting way… this is not dusting off tired concepts to hit trends, they are born anew in Aisha’s mind and hands wrought perfectly for the tale yet retaining the magic that makes these tropes so eternal.
She fought against her anger, even though it lived inside of her. She could feel it spark, like a fire, and she tried hard not to let it out.But sometimes it felt that if she held it in the fire would light within her. It felt as if the spark would spread through her insides and she would turn to ash.
One of the things I love the most about this book is the way Aisha uses her characters to work through one of the most controversial emotions- Anger and how we need to respect and understand our emotions rather than hide or reject them.
It is one of the most powerful and empowering books I have ever read for female anger, something that is too often seen as a ‘bad thing’ leading to so many problems with repressed feelings and guilt. I’m so pleased to see a book that explores anger in a positive way and frames the focus in a healthy way for life rather than compromising the self for the sake of others’ comfort or ego.
The representation in this novel of both children of colour, Arabic culture and language and LGBT+ should not be underestimated for its quiet power either.
Aisha beautifully includes these factors without making this the issue or story, in such a beautiful move that allows children of colour and with LGBT parents particularly married mothers to have the kind of adventures that has traditionally not been open to them in Western Literature without their ‘difference’ being the purpose or theme of the book. In addition, for those children who may or may not be aware of their own LGBT+ put simply this is the kind of book that could give those children the realisation or in future the anchor that they are not excluded from having a family, something that wasn’t and hasn’t been there for so many in the past.
Have you ever felt a tingling sensation at the back of your neck? Has something ever grazes against your cheek, but you couldn’t find the source? Have you ever get a shiver down your spine that came as if from nowhere?
Moonchild has earned a place on the all time favourites shelf, and is a book that I have been reading Tinyfae as her ‘fall to sleep’ book, she strains each night to listen as she is enjoying it so very much and talks about the characters and her thoughts and worries about them.
Some parents ache to read to their children The Hobbit and similar tales that have passed into ‘Classics’, for me Moonchild and it’s planned follow ups will be books I will want my children to remember and live as much as I do.
It is the perfect epic adventure with heart and excitement, Moonchild has firmly placed Aisha Bushby for me amongst the greats of this golden age of middle grade literature.
Moonchild: Voyage of the Lost and Found by Aisha Bushby is published by Egmont.
Many thanks for my review copy.