Harley Hitch, a highly illustrated chapter book came out earlier this year to high acclaim but I’ve let this book grow a little longer in my heart…. Along with the strawberry seeds that were sent to me with my copy.
Our own Grandpa Eden strawberry plants are a year away from fruiting BUT I’ve been inspired to post along with my delicious Harley Hitch inspired way to use the summery fruit – although for beginner gardeners I highly recommend buying plug plants of ready grown strawberries!
Harley Hitch lives in a fantastical mechanical steam punkish world of sentient robots and an Iron Forest that grows metallic nuts, bolts, needles, cogs, gears and blades amongst many other things.
She’s also late for school again, and all she wants this year is to win the coveted Bright Spark pupil of the term award.
But how can she do that when the Headmistress detests her, so does the class mean girl and now there’s some strange prismatic fungus taking over the Iron Forest!!!
Vashti has done it again and for a younger audience!! Perfect aimed at fans of Amelia Fang, Rainbow Grey and Anisha, this early chapter series has all the magic that Vashti brings to her middle grade worlds, but with the lighter touch of early chapter and beautiful illustrations, by the magnificent George Ermos.
There is lovely diversity inclusion to with Harley herself being of mixed heritage and mixed race couples, and LGBTQ+ at that through Harley’s two Grandpa’s, but beautifully this just ‘is’ rather than treated as remarkable or an ‘issue’ to overcome, which is beautiful.
With emotional themes of resilience, and trust particularly opening the heart to friendship it’s perfectly pitched to that almost or early tween age group who may be experiencing these struggles like Harley themselves.
Harley is a great relatable protagonist who has hopes, dreams, gets overexcited and angry leading to mistakes but ultimately means well and has the bonus of enviable hair as Grandpa Eden helps dye her hair a new colour each term, this book it’s a foresty green.
Which brings me to the wider themes within the book. This is a perfect accessible primer for the themes that Vashti explores in her older books with the juxtaposition of highly technological futuristic society with immersion and respect for the natural world. In this case they are a society of engineers and inventors with a dependency on the Iron Forest for parts and the daily needs of all the machines and implements of the town.
This lovely metaphor alludes not only to our own dependency on nature to survive but underlines our contemporary society’s disconnect even disrespect for it; but furthermore it shows how we don’t need to abandon technology to have a future, we need to use technology to ensure a healthy and synergistic rather than parasitic or destructive relationship with nature.
With messages of resilience, perseverance and above all, kindness whilst taking no nonsense, Harley Hitch is a fabulous and empowering tale for young readers and goes to lay the foundations of kindness, hope and conservation in the younger generations and to shift the seas of change.
It has also inspired my baking. With Grandpa Eden’s year round strawberry patch and the Iron Forest featuring throughout the book, and inspired by Harley’s green hair I created a cupcake inspired by this book and added gold sprinkles to represent Harley’s love of stars and stargazing.
Pistachio crema cupcake with chunks of fresh strawberry topped with green pistachio buttercream and fresh strawberry slices.
The girls loved the soft ‘carrot cake’ feel and sweet nutty taste from the pistachio crema which is like a Pistachio Nutella made with equal parts ground de-skinned pistachios and melted white chocolate whizzed in a food processor with a dash of milk. Tinyfae particularly LOVED the fresh strawberry decorations!
Harley Hitch and the Iron Forest by Vashti Hardy illustrated by George Ermos is published by Scholastic