Book Review: The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

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Rating: 5 out of 5.

This is a beautifully written story of a young girl, Isabella, and her best friend, Lupe. When Lupe goes missing, Isabella does everything she can to be part of the search party. She is in possession of an ancient map and uses this and her knowledge of the stars to navigate the forgotten territories of her island home. The land is dangerous and shrouded in myth. Isabella must find Lupe before these myths become more than just stories.

The book was first published in 2016 by Chicken House. The story is told in 228 pages, making it a relatively short read, but the setting, characters and plot are developed beautifully. The cover alone was enough to entice me into this book, and I was not disappointed. On the inside cover is a map of the island and each page is bordered with small illustrations, which only adds to the beauty and magic conjured up by the story.

The story is simply written, and aimed at older children and young adults. This does not detract from the expert writing style and difficult issues tackled however, and it can certainly be enjoyed by people of all ages. Overall it is a story of friendship and love, both for ones home, and the people who make it a home. Isabella just wants to protect the land she comes from, and the people she loves, something I think we can all relate to.

Isabella is a deep and well developed character. She is relatable and reminded me how I felt as a child. Everything down to the choices she makes, and the way she acts makes her seem real. I think it is remarkable that in such a short book, the author is able to conjure up such tangible characters and settings. When I was reading, I felt as if I could almost smell the sea air and taste the dust from the roads.

“India is a place where colour is doubly bright. Pinks that could scald your eyes, blues you could drown in.”

Kiran Millwood Hargrave – The Girl of Ink and Stars (Page 107)

Personally, I cannot name a single thing I didn’t love about this book. Everything from the beautifully written prose, to the underlying messages about the value of friendship and not making assumptions about people, was expertly done. The story was captivating and fast paced, but without feeling that there were any holes in the plot, or parts missing.

This book reminded me something I think all adults could do with thinking about. Children are their own people, capable of making their own choices separate to those of their parents. They are resilient and feel things deeply. Although the adults in their lives may make poor choices and let them down, it does not mean they will make those same mistakes. I think it can be easy to forget what it was like to be a child, and so reading books like this as an adult (and a parent) is important. They reconnect you with your inner child.

“We are all of us products of our surroundings. Each of us carries the map of our lives on our skin, in the way we walk even in the way we grow.”

Kiran Millwood Hargrave – The Girl of Ink and Stars ( page 109)

I read this entire book in one morning, and I would recommend it to anybody who just loves a magical story. I think a particular strong point for me is that it is a story of friendship, not romance. It is two young girls who love each other and just want to look after one another.

You can pick up a copy here.

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