This book has been tempting me with its pretty proof for ages now, so I’m so happy I got to read it! It’s a really lovely middle grade read that sensitively explores grief and familial love.
Book: A Pocketful of Stars by Aisha Bushby
Read before: No
Ownership: Lent to me by my friend Moon, who won it from author Stephanie Burgis’s giveaway. Steph was originally sent it for review from the publisher. Despite that convoluted journey, all opinions are my own!
I wasn’t really sure what to expect with this book, other than knowing it mixed fantasy and contemporary and was getting rave reviews! Turns out, it’s a really sweet and surprisingly deep book that should be an absolute classic of children’s literature. The book focuses on Safiya, whose mum is in an accident and falls into a coma. As Safiya sits by her bedside in the hospital, she discovers she can travel into a dream-like world that seems to resemble her mum’s memories of home…
This book is gorgeously textured, and you can sink into the writing like a really comfy chair. It feels new and old at the same time, which works really well with Safiya’s voice, which is appropriately young and mature at the same time as she deals with her mum’s illness. I loved that Safiya had an interest in video games, and that she visualised her fantasy world in game terms, with levels and quests – this felt really unusual and fun to read, and it’s nice to see a girl gamer so positively represented!
I also really loved how the book dealt with friendships – Year 8 (age 12-13 for non UK-people!) is a tricky time for a lot of kids, as there can be so much turbulence in friendship groups due to people maturing at different rates, and I can only imagine how much the addition of social media makes it worse. (I’m not that old but we certainly didn’t have so much of a culture of posting everything online for all to see – what social media we had was more personal and had smaller audiences!). To see Safiya go through these friendship struggles felt very real, and was a lovely touch in showing that the world doesn’t stop even in tragic circumstances, but that it is possible to lose friends you used to love and gain new ones that better suit the person you are now.
I don’t want to spoil anything, so I won’t give specifics, but this would be an excellent book to give to any child dealing with the illness or death of a relative. The lessons Safiya learns about love and family would be applicable to a number of situations. The book doesn’t shy away from showing Safiya’s guilt and sadness and shock, but it’s woven into the story so well that it doesn’t feel preachy. The magic side of things keeps the plot from getting slow or feeling too heavy, but obviously it does deal with a sensitive subject, so you’ll need to use your judgment on if this would suit you/your kids.
A Pocketful of Stars was enjoyable and magical and deep, and I’m so glad I read it. Four out of five cats.