Book Review

MG Monday: The Girl Who Walked on Air by Emma Carroll.

middlegrademonday

Middle Grade Mondays on Juniper’s Jungle feature books aimed at 8 – 12 year olds, or younger. This week, The Girl Who Walked on Air by Emma Caroll takes a spin into the spotlight.

TGWWOAAbandoned as a baby at Chipchase’s Travelling Circus, Louie dreams of becoming a ‘Showstopper’. Yet Mr Chipchase only ever lets her sell tickets. No Death-Defying Stunts for her. So in secret, Louie practises her act- the tightrope- and dreams of being the Girl Who Walked on Air. All she needs is to be given the chance to shine.

One night a terrible accident occurs. Now the circus needs Louie’s help, and with rival show Wellbeloved’s stealing their crowds, Mr Chipchase needs a Showstopper- fast.

Against his better judgement, he lets Louie perform. She is a sensation and gets an offer from the sinister Mr Wellbeloved himself to perform in America. But nothing is quite as it seems and soon Louie’s bravery is tested not just on the highwire but in confronting her past and the shady characters in the world of the circus . . .

Last year Frost Hollow Hall, Emma Carroll’s debut novel, was one of my best reading surprises. Historical fiction isn’t something I naturally gravitate towards but I was blown away by this beautiful read. When I read the synopsis for The Girl Who Walked on Air I had a feeling it was going to just as brilliant a read.

The book is set in the circus of the Victorian era. The circus that has performing animals and gets bums on seats with the promise of death defying feats that might just go wrong. Very quickly we get to see these aspects of the circus. Louie, our main character, was abandoned as a baby on the steps of one of the performers caravans. She was brought into the circus family though the owner, Mr Chipchase has resolutely kept her in the background – she has the very unglamorous roles of ticket seller and costume maker. She has a secret though, inspired by world famous tightrope walker The Great Blondin she’s been practising her own headline act and she’s good at it. Really good.

I loved all of the descriptions of the circus world Louie lives in, I really felt like I was walking through it with her – seeing all of the characters, smelling all of the smells, hearing the roar of the crowd. There is such a great level of detail, you can see that the author really did her research and has managed to instil it into the pages of the book. This combined with the twisty, gripping plot (Louie is of course not being kept out of the limelight for nothing) makes for a really atmospheric read.

I loved Louie so much as a main character. She’s strong and stands up for herself, she knows what she wants and is determined to make it work. She’s also very brave, the very idea of stepping onto a tightrope fills me with fear – the feats she manages are incredibly impressive. I liked her from the very beginning of book, she’s very appealing and so I was really rooting for her. The supporting characters are well created too, I liked how a number of them evolved as we got to know them better throughout the book.

This book has truly cemented Emma Carroll’s place on my list of authors I’m really excited by. She creates wonderful worlds and characters, and has made me completely rethink my personal relationship with historical fiction! When it’s written this well it’s something that I’m going to want more and more. The Girl Who Walked on Air is great, its gripping and exciting and left me entirely satisfied. I can’t recommend it strongly enough!

The Girl Who Walked on Air is published by Faber Children’s in the UK. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review

Recent Reads: See You At Harry’s by Jo Knowles and Frost Hollow Hall by Emma Carroll.

See You At Harry’s by Jo Knowles. Walker Books.
SeeYouAtHarrysTwelve-year-old Fern feels invisible.

Her dad is preoccupied with the family restaurant. Her mom is constantly going off to meditate. And then there’s Charlie: the “surprise” baby, and the centre of everything.

But when their lives are suddenly turned upside down, Fern feels responsible for the devastating even that wrenches the family apart.

Things will never be the same, but can Fern do anything to make them better?

This book broke my heart into little, tiny pieces. The blurb suggested it was going to be an emotional read and I’m known for crying easily, but I still did not expect to spend quite so much of the book ugly crying!

There’s not a huge amount I can say about the plot for fear of spoiling the read. It’s believable and realistic, probably at times all too much. I found I was quickly drawn into the lives of the characters, this only meant that the emotional aspect of the book resonated all the more strongly.

There was a lot to love about this book, it tells its story beautifully and nothing feels shoe-horned in for impact. I loved the fact the children in Fern’s family were all named after characters in books – that’s parenting done properly! There are some really well done sub-plots, every character gets their rightful share of the attention.

I can’t say that this is a book I will revisit often, I’m not made of strong enough stuff for that. But it is one I will most definitely be re-reading, it’s got so much I want to appreciate again.

Frost Hollow Hall by Emma Carroll. Faber & Faber.
FrostHollowHallThe gates to Frost Hollow Hall loomed before us. And they were very definitely shut.

In the middle of a frozen lake, a girl is skating. She’s not supposed to be here. No one is. Not since Kit Barrington drowned at Frost Hollow Hall ten years ago. But the dead don’t scare Tilly Higgins.

The ice is thin. It cracks. Suddenly she’s under the water, drowning. Near death, a strange spirit appears to her, a boy so beautiful Tilly’s sure he’s an angel. But he’s a ghost. A very troubled ghost. And he desperately needs her help…

I love a good ghost story, and this is a really good one. It’s a beautiful, atmospheric, wintery read – it completely lives up to its gorgeous cover.

The book is set in the winter of 1881, it’s described in such a way that you feel like you’re really there. Much of the book takes place in and around Frost Hollow Hall, the recent successes of TV shows such as Downton Abbey and the Upstairs Downstairs revival make this a setting that is easy to imagine and understand.

The plot has two key aspects; Tilly’s personal progress and growth, and the story of the ghostly being desperate for her help. These are seamlessly blended together resulting in one enthralling and entirely satisfying read.

I loved Tilly as a main character, she’s a completely charming mixture of plucky and vulnerable – I know that she’d have really appealed to me when I was a younger reader too. I liked that the characters in the book aren’t all straightforward, but they’re given the time to reveal the secrets that make them the way they are.

This is a really beautiful read, perfect for the winter. It’s going to go straight onto my winter re-reads shelf ready for next year.

Whilst I received review copies of both books from their publishers all opinions expressed are my own.