It’s a No-Money Day written and illustrated by Kate Milner

In 2018 Kate Milner won the Klaus Flugge Prize for most exciting newcomer to children’s picture book illustration with her debut, My Name is not Refugee. It was a book that encouraged children to think about and empathise with a character in a heartbreaking situation. In It’s a No-Money Day, published this month, she has done this again with great care. The subject of life below the poverty line & food banks from a child’s perspective is treated with compassion & understanding. This book is a must have for every single school.

This is a story simply told and yet the voice of the child narrator is one that has great impact. The little girl’s mum works very hard but, despite this, today is a day when the money has run out and there is no food in the cupboards. Their only option is to visit the local food-bank. Mum is ashamed and finds the visit humiliating but her young daughter likes the kind people who work there. In fact the little child is able to see the good in her day despite their circumstances and celebrates the simple joys like reading books from the library, drawing and imagining life with a pet kitten. Maybe one day things will be different and the little girl remains full of hope. Most importantly the mother and daughter have each other and their love to make even the darkest of days feel better.

Sometimes a book touches you in a way that you feel unprepared for and It’s a No-Money Day is such a book. Despite knowing the subject matter in advance as I turned the pages I slowed down, I looked at the illustrations of the mother and daughter and I cared about them. I cared very much. The voice of the child relating events is one of hope and innocence and the illustrations portray how the mother endeavours to protect her child from much of their situation. One page in particular brought me close to tears and this book could bring home to many the true picture of life for far too many families today. The muted illustrations match the tone of the story perfectly and add to the text conveying much that the young child does not voice herself.

Perhaps some may consider this a subject that is too upsetting for children to read about at a young age but as well as providing a window on worlds different to their own and encouraging empathy books offer children in difficult situations the opportunity to understand that they are not alone. For both these important reasons this moving and topical picture book deserves a place in every single school in the country. Teachers, school librarians, parents and carers alike should be made aware of this poignant and important book. It will prompt discussion, empathy, understanding and, I hope, make a difference.

I should like to thank the helpful team at Barrington Stoke for providing me with the advance preview material.

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Butterflies for Grandpa Joe by Nicola Davies illustrated by Mike Byrne

This gentle story, by Nicola Davies and illustrated throughout by Mike Byrne, conveys how love across the generations and the healing power of nature can soothe the heartache of grief and give hope for the future. This lovely book deserves a place in every primary school library and classroom.

Grandpa Joe has always loved butterflies and for a long time has photographed these beautiful creatures as they flutter around his garden. But he doesn’t do this anymore. Since Ben’s granny died Grandpa Joe has changed. He no longer wants to go outside and enjoy the lovely garden he shared with his wife. He doesn’t talk or smile anymore. He sits in front of the television lost in his thoughts and his memories. Ben fears that Grandpa Joe is slowly slipping away and he is desperate not to lose him too. Perhaps if Ben could find a way to bring the butterflies to his Grandpa the old man would come back to life and to his family.

This is a beautiful story. Nicola Davies has captured that special bond across the generations that so frequently exists between grandparents and their grandchildren. Ben loves his grandpa and Grandpa Joe loves Ben too but grief has left the old man unable to display this love anymore. I admired Ben’s determination to try to help. Nicola Davies also conveys to the reader the sadness of bereavement and how this can sometimes manifest itself in a solitary quietness and depression rather than floods of tears. Both her text and the illustrations by Mike Byrne capture that sense of something lost from a home when someone has died, almost as though the house and garden miss the person too.

As this book is aimed at an audience of about 8 years plus there is a lovely resolution to the story and the happy ending we would all hope for. The story contains threads that come together well and the family rift and its resolution show how conversation, understanding and compromise can help families sort out their differences which is a positive message for young readers too.

As one would expect from Nicola Davies, a zoologist whose books on nature are so popular, the story of the life cycle of the butterflies and the descriptions of their development and Ben’s care of them are excellent. I particularly liked the way in which the continuity of nature worked in parallel with the gradual reawakening of Grandpa Joe. It was beautifully done. The other family relationships, particularly that of Ben and his little sisters are realistic and show understanding and empathy.

This lovely book works on many levels and I would highly recommend it for primary school libraries and classrooms. As with all books published by Barrington Stoke this title is presented in a super readable style making it accessible to a wide range of readers but is also a great quick read for more confident readers.

Butterflies for Grandpa Joe is available at all good bookshops or online
Thank you to Kirstin Lamb from Barrington Stoke for providing my free copy for review.

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Flood World by Tom Huddleston

An epic dystopian novel that grabs you from the first chapter and hurls you into a world that feels disturbingly believable, Flood World would be great for lovers of fast paced thrillers and sci-fi.

Authors sometimes use a ‘what if’ scenario as inspiration for their writing and in Flood World Tom Huddleston has asked what if the world was ravaged by climate change and rising sea levels and subsequently changed beyond repair. The society he has created is a deeply troubled one in which power has been abused, those with position and wealth are kept safe and protected within The Wall and those without survive in The Shanties scratching out a living in the ruins of a sunken city.

Kara and Joe live in The Shanties, spending their days navigating the dangerous waterways with Joe diving for artefacts that will fetch meagre reward. The two of them are at the mercy of crooks but when they come into possession of a mysterious map their problems mount as they become involved in a world of sinister gangsters and The Mariners, a group of ruthless pirates who rule the seas.

This novel moves from one cliff hanger scene to the next at a rapid pace and has a definite cinematic feel which is to be expected from an author who is a film journalist and has written instalments in The Star Wars: Adventure in Wild Space saga. There are high speed chases, battles in which characters are disposed of in a violent manner and moments of high tension. Now I have to confess this would not be my usual reading fare and it was initially the brilliant map by Jensine Eckwall which drew me in. Maps in books are always a bonus for me and the world depicted in this one intrigued me. Once I started reading, the vivid descriptions made the world in the map come to life and I felt that there was almost a Dickensian atmosphere to The Shanties. Then there are the characters. Kara is a female character around whom, as the story progresses, the plot centres and she is a brave, almost fearless young woman, outspoken and yet caring towards Joe her younger and more naive friend. I found Joe a likeable character with a caring attitude despite his extremely difficult childhood. Having picked the book up not sure what to expect I kept reading because I found that within a few pages I wanted to know what happened to Kara and Joe and became involved in their world and their predicament.

This is an exciting read with moments of high drama and the violence depicted at times makes it a book for the upper end of the middle grade age range though I think it would appeal to teens also. Great for fans of the Alex Rider series.

Many of the themes touched upon make this a good book to share in the classroom at Year 6 and lower secondary levels. Climate change and young people’s reaction to world governments’ response to it is very much in the news at present and Flood World could be used as an effective prompt for discussion on both this subject and marine conservation. The prejudices displayed by different social groups in the story have echoes in discrimination based on race, religion or background so again the book may be a useful conversation starter.

Thank you to Nosy Crow Publishers for providing my proof copy. Flood World is published on 3rd October with a stunning cover illustration by Manuel Sumberac and a great map and illustrations by Jensine Eckhall.

An extract from Flood World is available on the Nosy Crow website

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Shakespeare for Every Day of the Year edited by Allie Esiri

This year National Poetry Day falls on 3rd October and with impeccable timing MacMillan Children’s Publishers have recently released a new anthology edited by Allie Esiri who has had great success with her previous poetry collections, A Poem for Every Night of the a Year and A Poem for Every Day of the Year. This time she has turned her attention to one of our greatest poets and playwrights, William Shakespeare.

Each page of this sumptuously presented book contains an extract from Shakespeare’s work – a soliloquy, poem, quote or scene – appropriate to the date. These extracts are accompanied by an introductory paragraph by Esiri that provides a little background to the piece and to its historical context, plus information about Shakespeare’s sources. These introductions are entertaining and informative and allow the reader to discover a little more about the life and times of this famous poet. There are familiar and much loved plays and quotes included that one would expect but also less well known works.

Shakespeare’s works lend themselves to the calendar of the year as he frequently refers to the passage of time and the changing seasons. I have over the last couple of weeks browsed this book and found it a calming and thoughtful experience. Shakespeare for Every Day of the Year could be read as the title suggests as a daily journal but this book could also be enjoyed by dipping in as often and for as long as one felt inclined.

The picture of the cover that I have shown does not do justice to the gorgeous illustration by Zanna Goldhawk. This book would make a wonderful gift for both older children and adults to share, read aloud or pore over as a reference book. It would also be a valuable addition to bookshelves in school libraries and classrooms. A daily taste of Shakespeare’s work from this book would serve to whet the appetite of children and encourage them to investigate further. Allie Esiri has created a refreshing introduction to Shakespeare that should make his works accessible to a wider audience.

Of course for maximum impact Shakespeare’s works need to be performed and his words spoken by those who can do them justice. In addition to the hardback there is also an audiobook version performed by leading actors such as Sir Simon Russell Beale, Helen McCrory, and Damian Lewis.

Thank you very much to Clare Hall-Craggs and MacMillan Children’s Publishers for providing me with my free copy. It has taken pride of place on my bookshelves.

Shakespeare for Every Day of the Year was published on 19th September and is available at all good bookshops or online

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The Frozen Sea by Piers Torday

Stories have great power. Through stories we learn about people, places and events. Stories can inspire and entertain, they connect us and help us to make sense of information and understand how it applies to our own lives. Stories require inspiration and imagination. Sometimes one story inspires another. The Narnia chronicles are classics that have affected readers for many years leaving a lasting impression on generations of readers. They inspired Piers Torday to create the world of Folio. In The Lost Magician we met the four children who discovered this special land and were thrilled by the adventure they took part in that brought peace to Folio. In The Frozen Sea, forty years after the first instalment, another child must embark on a dangerous quest to rescue a long lost relative in this remarkable world of stories and imagination.

Inspired by The Silver Chair this story begins in a similar way with Jewel Hastings trying to escape from school bullies just as Jill did in the earlier story. While hiding in a mysterious old bookshop she discovers an atlas through which Jewel, and her pet hamster Fizz, are transported to the land of Folio. In the Land Of the Reads she finds herself in the Idea Jungle and she and Fizz, who is now miraculously able to talk, are sent by the Librarian, the ruler of this place, on a quest to rescue her Aunt Evie who had returned to Folio.

The premise of discovering and visiting imaginary worlds using books, bookshops or libraries as a portal is immensely appealing to any of us who have felt transported to another place when reading. The world created by Piers Torday is a vivid one, at times beautiful and inspiring then within a few pages sinister and frightening. What makes this world deeply affecting is the place of technology within it. Setting the story in 1984 ensures that Jewel’s experience of computers and technological gadgets is confined to early video games and a much prized combined radio and double cassette recorder. She is bewildered by the robots, the rapid communication systems and the personal access to instant information that the UnReads of Folio have at their disposal. As an adult reader there are many moments of unsettling recognition as we watch how the citizens of Folio are dominated by the Stampstone worn on their wrists. Piers Torday demonstrates how the advancement of technology and the digital revolution can be both a blessing and a curse. The opportunities provided by the development of AI are touched upon and Jewel and Fizz are accompanied on their epic journey by a robot named Pandora.

There are many interesting themes and ideas conveyed throughout this imaginative and exciting adventure. As we follow Jewel who displays courage, loyalty and intelligence as she battles with enemies and the elements on her journey we learn that access to knowledge gives power and that this power may sometimes be used for ill. The manipulation of information, the inability to form one’s own opinion and the reliance on others’ ideas are all displayed in various scenarios. But the resilience of the human spirit and loyalty and love for family and friends play an equally important part in this book.

All of these ideas are wrapped up in an absolutely thrilling adventure. There is danger at every turn and the reader is never completely sure which characters are trustworthy and which are not which adds to the tension. Jewel is a fabulous protagonist and one that you very quickly warm to. Fizz definitely deserves a mention too. A hamster with a slightly cynical approach to life and a dry sense of humour he provides some very entertaining and amusing moments.

The intricate chapter headings and the stunning cover are by Ben Mantle. I think the cover illustrations capture the essence of the story beautifully and removing the dust jacket reveals an unexpected bonus on the hardback copy.

It would, I think, be possible to read and enjoy this book without having read The Lost Magician as the necessary plot points are covered within this sequel however for added enjoyment it would help to have met the various characters and to have visited Folio already.

The very best children’s books do more than entertain, they encourage the reader to think, to question and inspire them to read more widely. The skill of Piers Torday as a story writer is that he writes about the subjects he cares about with such passion that the reader is inspired to care too.

The Frozen Sea is now available to purchase in all good bookshops or online

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Barrington Stoke – Making Brilliant Stories Accessible to More Readers

As a school librarian I have long been a fan of the books published by Barrington Stoke. From their earliest days they have produced stories that are inviting to children, written by top authors, of a length that is not too daunting and including appealing illustrations. Also, and very importantly, they are presented in a style that is dyslexia friendly using a special typeface, extra line spacing and off white paper. Barrington Stoke’s books are therefore popular buys for school libraries and these two new titles are no exception.

Sophie Takes to the Sky by Katherine Woodfine illustrated by Briony May Smith

Part of the Little Gems series aimed at readers aged five to eight this charming story is inspired by a real historical character, balloonist Sophie Blanchard. Katherine Woodfine has created a story that has at its heart the possibility of overcoming fears to aim higher than you think possible so has a very positive message that would reassure and comfort children trying to overcome anxiety.

As the story opens we meet little Sophie living in a small village with her family. She is known for being scared of absolutely everything and is given the nickname ” Scaredy-Cat Sophie” by her sister. When a famous balloonist visits a local town fair Sophie is left behind while everyone else goes to watch him. Sophie is too frightened of riding in the horse drawn carriage to get there, too frightened of the crowds and too frightened of the noise and hubbub of the town. But Sophie is fascinated by the picture of the hot air balloon she has seen and the idea of floating in the sky. Perhaps she can learn to be brave. Wonderful things may happen if she can learn to conquer her fears and no longer be a “scaredy-cat.”

This lovely, touching story is matched by gorgeous illustrations by Briony May Smith which add to the traditional feel of the book, with a rich palette and plenty of detail they will encourage children to linger and look.

I think this is a gorgeous “Little Gem” that will be enjoyed by many readers and would make a delightful introduction to historical fiction.

If you enjoy this type of story you may also like to try Katherine Woodfine’s other Little Gem, Rose’s Dress of Dreams. For older readers, or as a read aloud for a younger age group, Sophie Takes to the Sky links beautifully to Emma Carroll’s Sky Chasers.

A Most Peculiar Toy Factory by Alex Bell illustrated by Nan Lawson

Best selling author Alex Bell combines adventure, mystery and black humour in her novella for Barrington Stoke. Targeted at the eight plus age group this creepy but entertaining story would be perfect for fans of Roald Dahl.

There are sinister rumours surrounding Hoggle’s Happy Toys following its closure five years ago, stories of shadows behind closed doors, sinister teddies and whispering dolls. But when news that the factory is reopening circulates through the town Tess Phipps and her siblings have no choice but to work there if they want to save the family farm. From their arrival on their first day the children realise that the factory does indeed hide dark secrets.

Many children dream of their favourite toys coming to life and sharing adventures with them and this book takes that idea and gives it a slightly sinister twist. It’s a brave move to make teddy bears, so often portrayed as cuddly and loveable, the villains of the piece. Young readers should enjoy the slightly subversive element to the story and Tess is a no nonsense character who tackles the situation with determination. The black and while illustrations throughout the book and the appealing cover are by Nan Lawson. This is recommended for readers who enjoy adventures with twists and a little touch of the sinister.

I would like to thank Kirstin Lamb of Barrington Stoke for providing my review copies.

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When We Were Warriors by Emma Carroll Review and links to teaching resources (Book 6 of my #20BooksofSummer)

Ever since her debut novel, Frost Hollow Hall I have found Emma Carroll’s historical fiction a treat to savour. I am shamefully late to reading this collection of short stories but having found the opportunity to sit down and enjoy this book in a leisurely fashion it was most definitely worth the wait.

What I find appealing about Emma’s books is that more than any other current children’s fiction they make me feel like the ten year old me again, curled up in a corner engrossed in a story that I truly felt a part of. She is an author with a knack for capturing the voice of children and enabling her readers to feel that they are involved in the adventure. Better still they are adventures in which children take centre stage, finding bravery when they thought they had none, righting wrongs and solving problems.

Historical fiction is wonderful for explaining to children how the world came to be as it is at present. In Emma Carroll’s books historical events become real and relevant to today’s child readers. In When We Were Warriors the author returns to a period and to characters already featured in some of her previous books. Set during World War 2 in 1942 each of the three stories depict children coping with the effects of war, be that as evacuees or at still at home but enduring the fear of the blitz.

In the first story young Stan and his two sisters are evacuated from Bristol to a large country house with forbidden rooms and disturbing secrets. Stan is portrayed as a sensitive boy and the manner of his character development is touching and would be reassuring for readers too. The second story is one in which Olive discovers the body of a German soldier washed up on the beach and is an exciting adventure that will enthral children as the tension mounts and the story is told at a cracking pace. Again the children display tenacity and courage as they face a threat to a friend and to their village. In the final story Velvet is determined to ensure that all the local pets are kept safe when the bombs fall even if this means taking matters in to her own hands. It also touches on the subject of conscientious objectors with care and understanding.

This is a delight for those familiar with Emma Carroll’s earlier stories as we rediscover familiar places and are reunited with old friends, however it would also be a wonderful introduction for those unfamiliar with her work. Although the stories stand alone the way in which they are set in a particular area of the country and the lovely manner in which they contain a thread that unites them add to the feeling of satisfaction as you turn the final page.This is highly recommended.

A book that will appeal to children in the 8 – 12 age group this would also work extremely well read aloud. It would be useful for primary teachers as it features different aspects of the Second World War presenting historical detail in an accessible manner.

When We Were Warriors is available in all good bookshops or online

If you have not already read it I would recommend Emma’s other book set in World War Two, Letters from the Lighthouse. Another excellent WW2 novel for this age group is D-Day Dog by Tom Palmer.

I have collected a number of links to websites that may be useful for teachers in primary school classrooms on World War 2 topics.

WW2 Evacuees

There are many sources of information about evacuees suitable for KS2 students but two of the most comprehensive websites are Primary Homework Help and the Imperial War Museum

Home Front

Life at home in Britain is an interesting subject for children and The National Archives website contains a range of teaching ideas and resources.

For a range of resources on many different aspects of World War 2 that are freely available to download you may like to try the Primary Resources website.

When We Were Warriors is the sixth book on my list for the 20BooksOfSummer challenge organised by Cathy on 746 Books.

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I, Cosmo by Carli Sorosiak

As a child my family always had a dog. There were times when we had two dogs. To me and to my sister these dogs were much more than pets, they were friends. Friends who we always believed knew when we were sad or troubled, whom we occasionally confided in and sought refuge with when life was tricky. Carli Sorosiak clearly felt the same way and in this lovely book has recreated that special relationship between a child and their pet dog with heart, kindness and humour.

Cosmo’s family are in trouble. Mom and Dad are arguing, Emmaline is too little to understand what is happening but is worried, her brother Max is old enough to understand and is scared that his family will break up. Cosmo wants to help his best friend Max and the family he cares very much about. However, Cosmo is a Golden Retriever, thirteen years old and getting a bit creaky so what can he possibly do to help? Perhaps more than he realises because Cosmo loves, he loves “doggedly” with his whole heart, no matter what and he will do for his whole life.

From the opening lines Cosmo’s voice is a distinctive one, full of warmth and a wise understanding with occasional moments of bewilderment. The story begins at Halloween with Cosmo suffering the indignity of being dressed up as a turtle with admirable fortitude. Very quickly we start to understand how deep the understanding is between Max and Cosmo. To try and save the family and remind Max’s parents of former happier times the two enter a local dog dancing competition. They are going to dance to a song from Cosmo’s favourite film, Grease. In order to succeed Cosmo will need to battle against aged joints and aches and pains while Max must learn to overcome his shyness.

It says much for the writing that as the story progressed I felt I knew and understood Cosmo and Max and the unbreakable bond between the two of them. Cosmo is such a fabulous character. He is so full of love. At times he misbehaves but he cares, he cares very much and he makes the reader care too. There are some very funny, at times hilarious, events along the way too. Mostly involving Cosmo and food. Max has great appeal, being a thoughtful boy who is trying to do his best during a stressful time. He and Cosmo are helped in their mission by Uncle Reggie, an army dog trainer who has just returned from Afghanistan, a lovely character who I found as appealing as Cosmo.

The improvement in Max’s and Cosmo’s dancing skills runs alongside the rapid disintegration of Mom and Dad’s marriage and viewing all this through Cosmo’s eyes enables children to witness Max’s unhappiness at a safe distance. Throughout the whole book there are moments when we realise that everyone has to deal with fears in life, sometimes nameless ones, and that it is possible to face up to and overcome these.

Carli Sorosiak writes about a difficult subject with an understanding of the needs of her young readers and I, Cosmo demonstrates how families are able to adapt successfully to changing and difficult circumstances. A book full of warmth and humour. I adored Cosmo and I loved his story. By the end I was desperate for a Cosmo of my own and think other readers will feel the same way.

I, Cosmo was published on 1st August and is available to purchase at all good bookshops or online The appealing cover illustration is by Ben Mantle. Thank you very much to Nosy Crow publishers for providing my free review copy.

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Straw into Gold – Fairy tales re-spun by Hilary McKay illustrated by Sarah Gibb Book 5 of #20BooksofSummer

Fairy tales are part of our cultural history. We share these magical, gripping and frightening stories in childhood and their characters, messages of magic and bravery, evil and love stay with us into adulthood. They are referred to in a wide range of literature for both adults and children and each individual cautionary tale offers a template for coping with circumstances and events. In fairy stories good conquers evil, the wicked are punished and after trials and tribulations our heroes live happily ever after. So why would an author rewrite them? Many do. Often these retellings are humorous such as Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl or tell the story from a different protagonist’s point of view such as The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith.

In Straw into Gold Hilary McKay takes ten of the best loved fairy tales and with care, humour and wisdom retells these stories with a freshness and with unexpected twists and updates and yet they retain the heart of the originals. Each story feels comfortingly familiar, the traditions and the key elements that we know are still there but the messages and the characters feel relevant to today’s readers. Both adults and children, particularly if they know the originals, will love the jokes and references and the way in which the characters are subtly redrawn.

The fairy tales chosen include Rapunzel, Snow White, Rumpelstilstkin, The Pied Piper of Hamelin and Cinderella so the most well known children’s favourites are all there. What I particularly enjoyed was the way in which Hilary McKay answered some of those unanswered questions and observations from my childhood. I always fretted about the ending of The Pied Piper and wondered what happened afterwards. The retelling of Rumpelstilstken is thoughtful and thought provoking making me care about a character who terrified me as a child. Chickenpox and Crystal, the Snow White story, contains a wise message about modern culture’s obsession with appearance and an ending that I loved. It is impossible for me to select a favourite. The Tower and the Bird (Rapunzel) with its gentle look at coping with ones fears was touching. The Princess and the Problem, (the Princess and the Pea) made me smile. Each and every one was a delight to read.

The subtle silhouette illustrations by Sarah Gibb are a perfect match for the stories. I think they are beautiful and they reminded me a little of Jan Pienkowski’s work. The outlines of the characters leaves the reader to imagine features and other characteristics but capture the historical and traditional nature of the stories themselves. Hilary McKay’s prose describes settings and landscapes so beautifully that images are created in your mind as you read and I found the simplicity of the illustrations worked extremely well with the writing. The cover with its scattering of motifs from the stories is stunning too.

This would be a valuable addition to home and school bookshelves. The ten short stories would be perfect to read aloud in the classroom and the retelling of traditional tales would be an excellent discussion and writing prompt for teachers to use in English lessons.

Straw into Gold was published in paperback in 2018 and is available to purchase in all good bookshops, online or to borrow from your local library.

Thisx was the fifth in the books I earmarked for the 20BooksOfSummer challenge organised by Cathy on 746 Books. It is time to face up to the fact that I will not manage all twenty books so I will select two or three more from the ones I originally chose. Full details are in this post

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The Salt Path by Raynor Winn Book 4 of #20BooksofSummer

My slow progress through the 20BooksOfSummer challenge organised by Cathy on 746 Books took a long detour around the South Western Coastal path with this non fiction best seller from 2018. Raynor Winn tells the story of how she and her husband, in their fifties, lose everything, their home, their livelihood and their money following a bad investment. Almost unbelievably, only days later Raynor’s husband, Moth, is diagnosed with a terminal, degenerative illness. This is a situation most of us could not bear to contemplate. However Raynor and Moth, prompted by a book she has read, decide to pack their bags and walk the south western coastal path together, all 630 miles of it. This impulsive, some including me, might even say foolish decision was to change their lives in a manner they did not anticipate.

There are two strong themes threading through this journal of their journey; firstly the restoring power of nature and our relationship with our environment and secondly homelessness, specifically the circumstances surrounding its increase and attitudes towards those who are in this situation.

I read this book with increasing admiration for this couple’s remarkable resilience. Raynor and Moth are wild camping and with only £48 per week to live on frequently their food runs out. Their strength in the face of their difficulties owes much to their background. They share a love for and understanding of the natural world around them, restored their family home and ran their farm in South Wales for many years. The early days of their journey are marked by Moth’s physical pain and I wondered again about the wisdom of their decision. I should have had more faith. As the days turn into weeks the couple grow stronger both physically and mentally. There are an increasing number of articles written about the restoring power of nature on our wellbeing and for Raynor and Moth their long journey gives them a reason to carry on. Equally importantly they also gain an acceptance of their situation helped by the fact that Moth’s condition is improved by their long and arduous walk.

One of the most interesting aspects of The Salt Path are the many encounters they have with other people on the path and in the towns they call in to on the way. When others discover that the couple are homeless some visibly recoil or are unsure how to respond. Yet when Moth explains their journey saying they have ‘sold up’ and are completing a long awaited journey they are viewed as ‘inspirational.’ There are several occasions when Raynor and Moth meet others in a similar situation and homelessness in rural, holiday areas is a growing problem in part due to high rental charges and the temporary, seasonal nature of some employment. Winn shows the reader how public preconceptions regarding homeless people can result in prejudice against those who are sadly in this situation.

Yet this is not a depressing read at all. Raynor Winn’s love of nature shines through in her writing and there are vivid descriptions of the coastline and the birds and other wildlife they observe. There are humorous episodes too, particularly when Moth is mistaken for a travelling poet. In addition to the couple’s resilience I was touched by their obvious love and concern for each other. There were friendships made along their route and the kindness and concern shown to them by many outweighed the indifference of some and the hostility displayed by a few.

The Salt Path demonstrates the strength of the human spirit in the most difficult of circumstances and encourages all of us to appreciate every moment.

If you would like to see which other books feature on my 20 Books of Summer list you can find out all about them here

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