Books that Dare to be Different by Sophie Kirtley

Sophie Kirtley

Super excited to be welcoming Sophie Kirtley to My Book Corner today. Her latest novel, The Way To Impossible Island… oh wow! Sophie has a way with words… agreed?

This is an action packed novel which, at the same time, is so beautifully and lyrically written. It links so cleverly to Sophie’s previous book, The Wild Way Home, whilst also being a stand-alone story. When two worlds collide, just as they did in Wild Way Home, the characters must support each other in order to survive. I adored the fiercely independent Mothgirl and the determined Dara who is trying to find his place in his world. Such a thrilling adventure, with emotional punch.

And so… of COURSE I invited Sophie to My Book Corner today. Grab a cuppa-

Thank you so much for welcoming me to My Book Corner to celebrate the launch of my new book The Way to Impossible Island.

The Way to Impossible Island tells the story of two children, neither of whom feel that they quite fit within the moulds expected of them by their respective societies. Stone Age Mothgirl is ‘twelve summers old’ – she loves hunting and running fast and free through her forest home with her wolf, ByMySide; she’s not ready for a life of ‘woman ways’ – preparing nutcakes, scraping deerskins and sharpening others’ spears. Twenty-first-century twelve year old Dara Merriam was born with a heart condition that means he has to take it easy and hold himself back from the adventures he longs for. When Dara finds Mothgirl transported to the present day and cowering in the Old Boatshed the two embark together on a journey across the wild waves to Lathrin Island where they both find themselves capable of things they’d previously thought impossible… and where, through each other’s friendship, they both come to accept who they each really are. And to embrace it!

I think I’ve written a book that celebrates difference, because maybe I myself am a bit of a square peg in a round hole. I remember doing a ballet show when I was a very little girl – the premise was ‘clouds’ and all the other children were pretty little fluffy clouds – in pink and white and pale blue tutus, they got to tippy-tip-toe delicately onto the stage and float about. I was not one of these clouds. My friend Ellie and I had been cast as storm clouds! We had to wear grey tutus! I was outraged! I still remember stomping onto the stage furiously with a face like thunder, which was probably exactly what the ballet teacher wanted. But the point is, I’m not a little fluffy cloud! And the books I love aren’t little fluffy cloud books either. I love books that dare to be different…and here are some of my recent recommendations for readers age 8-12.

EMMY FRONT COVEREmmy Levels Up by Helen Harvey
Avid gamer, Emmy is a champion online but in her real life she is faced with bullying and loneliness. I love how Helen Harvey really interrogates the nature of bullying and also shows the power of community and friendship in this story. Ultimately, Emmy learns from her experiences in her gaming world and then applies them to her real-world crises, finding a way to both accept and be accepted for who she really is. It’s such a hopeful and important book.

I Am Not A Label by Cerrie Burnell, Illustrated by Lauren Baldo
This beautifully illustrated book, explores the life stories of 34 amazing people with disabilities – artists, writers, scientists, thinkers, sports-people, musicians. Cerrie Burnell’s text is lively, informative and empowering. This book celebrates all people and will spark such valuable discussions about inclusion, understanding and acceptance.

RumaysaRumaysa: A Fairytale by Radiya Hafiza, Iluustrated by Rhaida El Touny & Areeba Siddique
I really enjoyed this refreshingly funny fairytale retelling mash-up. Through the characters of Rumaysa, Cinderlayla and Sleeping Sara, Radiya Hafiza puts a new slant on tales of old, shaking them up, then blending them together to create something fresh and bold. The overall message that anyone can be a hero is delivered with real lightness and fun.


Between Sea and Sky by Nicola Penfold
Both this and Nicola Penfold’s first book, Where the World Turns Wild, kick against the tide. Each stands up bravely for the rightness of children in the face of the adult wrongs that have created the warped dystopian backdrops of their worlds. Between Sea and Sky brings the importance of caring for our planet to the forefront of our minds through the intertwined stories of Nat and Pearl, characters we come to care about enormously.

BeingMeBeing Me: Poems About Thoughts, Worries and Feelings by Liz Brownlee, Matt Goodfellow, Laura Mucha, illustrated by Victoria Jane Wheeler
The thoughtfully illustrated poems in this collection are delightfully accessible yet also full of gentle wisdom and empathy. It’s so hard for children (and adults!) to understand, yet alone explain, difficult feelings, but tender, insightful, inclusive poetry like this gives readers the feeling of being heard and provides space for lots of discussion too. There’s such a range of styles and themes here that there really is something for everyone.

I hope you read and enjoy these books that dare to be different as much as I did. We all want children to be happy and to be accepted for who they are, but somehow it’s easier to say ‘be yourself’ than to actually explore what that really means. Reading is such a great way to do this. Over time, I’ve learned to wear my grey-cloud-tutu with pride and I want to create books that make readers feel celebrated and seen for who they are too.

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