The Girl of Ink and Stars is a children’s novel about a young girl called Isabella who is a map maker’s daughter, embarking on a magical adventure on the island she grew up on. I purchased this book for my partner’s niece who is also called Isabella, she has just turned seven and it seems she is becoming a bit of a bookworm who no longer enjoys picture books but “proper reading books” she says. At first I was a little bit reluctant to gift her this book because she is slightly under age, with the target age group being 8 years and up due to themes about death and monsters lurking in the woods. However her reading ability is very advanced for a seven year old and she’s watched far more scary scenes in Harry Potter films.
Having read this first before handing it to Isabella to ensure it is appropriate for her, I was captivated from the moment I read the first paragraph. This middle grade fantasy novel had beautiful magical realism elements woven into the story and at times felt like I had been transported to a dream world or perhaps a fairytale.
The Girl of Ink and Stars is one of those rare treasures that is as gorgeous on the inside as it is on the outside. The book cover is simply beautiful as are the lyrical words and sentences throughout.
This book is absolutely stunning from beginning to end. Set in a beautifully imagined parallel world, The Girl of Ink and Stars is Isabella’s tale. She is such a strong and fierce character and I’m sure that she will be an inspiration to many young girls. This is truly a tale of strength and love of friends and family entwined with myth and legend and a heavy emphasis on female empowerment, devotion and never giving up hope regardless of the sadness.
The world Bella resides in, is a kind of alternative version to Earth, with place names like Afrik and Europa … the main land of Joya seems to be an alternative Caribbean island, heavily influenced by both Spanish and African culture.
There are a lot of things I loved about this story. First of all, the protagonist was intelligent, resilient and loyal. After her friend Lupe leaves, Isabella is singularly dedicated to saving her and helping her father, even if it means working with the Governor she despises. Reading the magical maps is far from straight forward, but Isabella figures out how to use them on her own. I also thought that the mythology surrounded the Yote — the demon that curses the island — was really interesting and well-written, it reminded me a little bit of Disney’s Moana. It has scary elements even though this book is definitely intended for children ages 8+.
Kiran Millwood Hargrave is brilliant at keeping her readers hooked, and getting them really attached to the characters. Her writing throughout The Girl of Ink and Stars was spellbinding, and shows that sometimes all you need are a few words to keep the readers thinking about the book long after the turn of the last page.
The only criticism I have of this book is that I felt perhaps the plot was too simple and characters could have been given more development or back stories, but then I read this book through an adult’s eyes and not a seven year old girl. I also disliked Isabella calling her father “Da” instead of “Dad”, it just bugged me as it felt like really bad English. I also personally felt that the death of her best friend at the end was a little inappropriate, especially for the age range however I am aware that children see more horrific things going on in the world, more so than ever before and like The Brother’s Grimm Fairytales, The Girl of Ink and Stars perhaps wanted to gently highlight these topics of war, death and colonialism to teach kids that these things are really happening right now in countries like Syria and Afghanistan, and a little girl somewhere in the world will have lost a best friend or loved one to some kind of catastrophe so perhaps The Girl of Ink and Stars teaches our children to have empathy, to appreciate others, to be brave and above all always remember those who gave their lives so we can live today.
This is such a magnificiant book and I read it in one sitting, it did feel like this won’t be the end of Isabella’s adventures, there were hints to a possible sequel and I think it could work really well, developing the story into a mini book series or even a film. I give this story 4/5, it is beautifully crafted and it is reminisent of vintage storytelling being passed down through the ages. I felt swept away and taken in by the exploration of the island, the magical maps and the myth that held the main plot together. Bringing enchantment to a small, mundane quiet island The Girl of Ink and Stars is simply captivating.
You can purchase a copy here: The Girl of Ink and Stars
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Review of The Rialto Poetry Magazine
Review of Candlestick Press Poetry Pamphlets
Book Review of Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops By Jen Campbell
Quotes I like from The Book of Dharma by Simon Haas
Book review of Alchemy of the Heart by Elizabeth Prophet
Book Review of Shamanic way of the Bee by Simon Buxton
Book Review of Love poems from God by Daniel Ladinsky
Book Review of Yoga for Travelers by Jennifer Ellinghaes
Book review on yoga books (miscellaneous)
Book Review on Kinfolk Magazine issues 11 & 12
Beautiful children’s books part one
Book review on the Book of Symbols by Taschen
Book Review on the children’s picture book ABC Dream by Kim Krans
Book Haul on Art Therapy Books
Book Haul on more Art Therapy Books