You HAVE to read this book!

‘You HAVE to read this book!”

These were the words uttered by both my eight and ten year old daughters, independently of one another and approximately six months apart. To quantify: my children never say this to me about books that they read, which is why I really sat up and took notice when they did, and made a point of reading them for myself.

The interesting thing about these books is that they’re not necessarily their most favourite reads, but they are books that touched them deeply on a secret, subtle level and they wanted to share this with me.

So, without further ado, I present you with the two books in question, The Naming of Tishkin Silk by Glenda Millard (read by my 8 year old) and The Boy who Sailed the Ocean in an Armchair by Lara Williamson (read by my 10 year old.)

The Naming of Tishkin Silk

Right, I hold my hands up here: by the end of this book, I was in tears. It was just so, so beautiful. I honestly cannot remember the last time I cried reading a children’s book (probably when I was a child.) The issues covered in this little gem unfold gently and respectfully. All we know is that Griffin Silk and his big sisters are waiting for their mother to come home (from where? It is hinted at throughout but we are not sure until the end) as well as their little sister.

The language is breathtakingly magical: although the setting is a normal, semi-rural Australian village, I found myself moved again and again by Millard’s lyrical prose and most certainly enhanced by Caroline Magerl’s tender illustrations. Here are two of my favourite lines from the book:

‘Griffin wondered how it was that small boys and mothers and fathers could sometimes read the feelings in each other’s hearts, even when the words that came out didn’t match them, and sometimes without a word being spoken at all.’

‘Inside, he felt something swell like the tiny flare of a match in the darkness. Layla smiled and squeezed his hand and the feeling grew stronger. And though Griffin didn’t realise it, the feeling had a name. It was courage.’

Even better news, Glenda Millard has written a whole series of these books (The Naming of Tishkin Silk is the first in The Kingdom of Silk series.) I have already ordered more for my daughter and I, for one, will be waiting in the sidelines to read them after her.

(As an aside, I first heard about Glenda Millard’s books through the wonderful Playing by the Book. Click here to read her post on The Kingdom of Silk series.)

The Boy who Sailed the Ocean in an Armchair

My daughter’s grandmother gave this book to her for her 10th birthday. I’d not heard of it before but was immediately impressed by the beautifully designed & striking cover, arresting title and instructions at the back of the book on how to make a paper crane. (My daughter, since reading it, has become one pro paper crane maker.)

Similarly to The Naming of Tishkin Silk, there exist a number of unknowns in this book; tensions that simmer between the lines, inviting young readers to ask a number of Why’s, the most significant being Why has the father of Becket Rumsey (our protagonist) run off with him and his younger brother Billy away from Pearl, their ‘almost-mother’? And like all good books, the strands of this mystery are slowly and cleverly tied together as the plot progresses, with the help of a pet snail named Brian for good measure.

A couple of my favourite extracts from this book:

‘ I stare out towards heaven and the moonbeams wash my face in silver. One star is brighter than all the others and I press my fingertip to the glass. It leaves a tiny planet of heat. “I am calling this star “Mum”, I whisper. “Goodbye, Mum.” My eyes prickle as I realize that the star is still bright and it’s going to be there for ever and Mum isn’t and it feels all wrong.’

‘Like a pebble I plunge down into the water. It feels like some unseen giant has found me and covered my head in a cold blanket and no matter how much I try to shake it free it won’t leave me. Worse still, I don’t even know where I’m going, but wherever it is I can’t leave Billy behind when I get there. Not my Billy. Not the baby who came home when Mum didn’t.’

Lara Williamson is also the author of the wonderfully-titled  A Boy Called Hope which we haven’t read, but certainly intend to. If anyone reading this has read this book, we’d love to hear your thoughts on it.

I would wholeheartedly recommend both of these fantastic books. The protagonists of both books are boys (and lovable, engaging boys at that,) but they would suit both girls and boys of around the ages of my girls’. But of course, younger and older children could definitely enjoy them too, and I’m generally not a fan of age banding on books. Young Adult author Malorie Blackman once said that ‘Reading is an exercise in empathy; an exercise in walking in someone else’s shoes for a while.’ How right she is, and I can think of no better books to sow that vital seed of empathy into the souls of the young people in our lives.

Enjoy this blog post? Try the following: Why reading aloud to older kids is not just special, it’s vital; The nine year old who read one hundred books in a year & Carving a path for our children through written and oral landscapes.

Not read my latest book, The Girl and the Sunbird yet? Click here to read some of the reviews and buy 🙂



2 replies
    • Rebecca Stonehill
      Rebecca Stonehill says:

      Absolutely. I see she has another book just out too called ‘Just call me spaghetti-hoop boy’ which looks really fun


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