You may have guessed that I’m a huge fan of Vashti Hardy’s writing and she’s a wonderful person too ! The Puffin Portal is the sequel to her first collaboration with Barrington Stoke The Griffin Gate, a tale that blends the Hardy-verse of STEM steeped societies and steam punkery into it in accessible form for those readers who need a little extra support and with the playful illustrations by Natalie Smillie throughout to boot!
Grace Griffin has settled beautifully into her wardenship after saving the family heritage, but recently things that are coming a tad too much. Mum is exhausted and even Grace barely poses for breath before another minor call.
When she suggests to mum about recruiting a new warden mum reminds her of great grandma’s rules – keep in the family. And so Grace is left alone to puzzle out a series of baffling minor thefts all involving a puffin that leads her to strange lights on the abandoned ruins of Eely castle.
Hardy’s work is always a delight because amongst enthralling tales of adventures and thrilling mysteries they are layered with the attitude of embracing technology as a partner rather than enemy to solving social or climate issues. But even more, beside these ‘greater issues’ they are always equally exploring microcosmic personal issues- of the heart or head, in this case the definition of family.
Family is an interesting word, in a society obsessed with defining or proving our heritage and where we are from, we sometimes forget where we are going.
We need to pause and consider that if we are descended from distant dethroned royalty, the freedom fighters of revelations, or pioneers of culture, science for whatever, how much does that matter if we don’t conduct ourselves in a manner that will make our descendants proud to name us too, or more so, rather? Or indeed what for those who like Tom have no ancestry at all; not even a name, it’s unknown, lost, or for those disowned for not fitting in, does that lower their worth?
Instead we can look to what we stand for now and how we look forward as defining our family; a support network of kindred spirits, I hope the bacon, our roots and wind beneath our wings are sometimes but not always blood, but always of mind and spirit.
On a side note, I particularly enjoyed seeing the craft of Hardy unfold within the remit of Barrington Stoke, carefully chosen structure, syntax and vocabulary for comfort and growth and a gentle focus on quietly building stamina through immersion within the world and empowering the reader for noticing key points before the protagonist.
The illustrations are a crucial enrichment of this wonderful series as Natalie beautifully captures the events communicating Grace’s emotions and thinking processes as she encounters her problems.
A wonderful series I’m looking forward to continuing with the upcoming The Raven Riddle!!
The Puffin Portal by Vashti Hardy is published by Barrington Stoke
Thank you for my copy 💜