Lately, I have come across two beautiful little novels, both with a magical, mystical atmosphere, and both set in Australia.

The Naming of Tishkin Silk
Glenda Millard, with artwork by Caroline Magerl
(Phoenix Yard Books)

Griffin Silk is an uncommon little boy, and it becomes quite obvious to him as he soon as he starts school and  other pupils see consider him as odd, with his long hair and his family’s bohemian lifestyle. But Layla is different, and when he finds her making daisy chains on the way back from school, he knows he has found a friend in her. Soon they start sharing everything, but can he really share his deepest secret, the reason why his  mother and little sister Tishkin have been away from the house for so many months?

The first in the Kingdom of Silk series, The Naming of Tishkin Silk is a truly beautiful story of loss, hope, strength and love. It written in the  most evocative style from Glenda Millard (whose wonderful A Small Free Kiss in the Dark I had reviewed here). Her depictions of rural Australia are stunning; the reader can nearly feel the heat of the sun through the branches of the apple tree. It is supported by gorgeous artwork by Caroline Magerl.  It is such a delicate, tender text and this is mirrored wonderful it its design.

The Naming of Tishkin Silk is quite a short read, and it reads effortlessly as a read aloud. Though adult readers might work out fairly early on what has happened to Tishkin and Griffin’s mother, young readers will most certainly not and the eventual discovery of their fate will undoubtedly raise some questions. But though the sadness of loss is deeply felt in the last pages, so is hope and the enduring love of a family unit. It is an emotional book, but also a splendid and unforgettable read.

Layla, Queen of Hearts will out in June.

Angel Creek
Sally Rippin

It is Christmas Eve and the whole of Jelly’s family have come to celebrate in Jelly’s new house, on the other side of the city from all her friends. When she and cousins Gino and Pik go down to the creek, even though they are not allowed, they find a baby angel, with a broken wing. Jelly decides to keep it until its wing is mended. But soon things start to go wrong: Jelly’s grandmother is rushed to hospital, baby Sophia gets really poorly, and Jelly herself gets terrible headaches. Could this all be linked? Does the baby angel need to be set free?

A beautifully crafted short novel which touches on many themes which will appeal to the intended audience, Angel Creek is realistic with a touch of fantasy, and both genres blend successfully. Jelly is going through changes in her life: new house, new school, and faces challenges such as bullying and a rather invasive extended family. Those bring many worries and stress,which are then accentuated by the presence of the angel.  Interestingly, the angel is not portrayed as your usual beautiful, sweet and white creature; instead it is portrayed as feral, dirty, and  with a rather lethal screech too. The creature mirrors Jelly’s conflicting feelings, and of course her thoughts and wishes encourage the angel to act accordingly. Jelly is not a perfect protagonist –  she can be selfish at times, makes mistakes and is quite frankly reckless at times. But that’s comforting for readers; it makes her all the more real and easy to relate to.

Sally Rippin’s style is incredibly atmospheric – the reader too feels fascinated by the creek, despite its obvious danger and murkiness. The feelings of loss, fear of change, but also of a first crush are vividly depicted. Jelly loses some of her innocence by the end of the tale, and becomes more grown-up, ready for  the next step in her life, which makes Angel Creek a great tale for those who are about to make this step. But the writing is compelling and though aimed at a young readers, the lyricism of this tale will delight older audiences too.

Source: review copies from publishers