The Stars at Oktober Bend
Written by Glenda Millard
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The Lovereading4Kids comment
Longlisted for the UKLA 2017 Book Award | August 2016 Book of the Month | In a Nutshell: Survival | Friendship | Power of words
Heartrending and, ultimately, hopeful, this tells the extraordinarily powerful tale of unforgettable Alice, whose “soul is filled with songbirds”, and who refuses to let the cowards win. Fifteen-year-old Alice Nightingale has hair as red as fire, skin as pale as bone and, after a brutal assault, her “electrics are wrecked”. Her words may “come out weird”, but it’s through words that Alice transcends being “cursed with twelveness” (the doctors think she will forever remain a twelve-year-old). She writes in the inimitable, incisive language of her soul - “poems mean whatever people want them to. that is why I like them” - and sets her thoughts free by leaving poems around her town, where she lives with huge-hearted brother, Joey, and sick grandmother, gram. At the age of fourteen, with their dad dead, mother gone, and granddad in prison, Joey is “the last man standing”, Alice observes.
Like Alice, Manny’s life is suffused with tragedy. He’s a former child soldier, a refugee from Sierra Leone, where “stories are not written on paper”, and where a war claimed his family, and childhood. After finding one of Alice’s poems, Manny is desperate to meet the girl who wrote it, and he follows a paper trail that eventually leads to her heart. Manny gives Alice hope in a world that’s been beyond cruel to her, while she’s “truly gold” to him, a beacon of light and love. The exceptional writing performs a kind of alchemy as the horrific details of Alice’s assault unfold, along with the reason behind her grandfather’s imprisonment. Most remarkable of all is Alice’s unique narrative voice - “my soul is filled/ with songbirds/ but when i open myself/ to set them free they shit/ on my lips”. Alice’s condition might render her vulnerable, but she possesses a calm strength. “i never wanted to hide. hiding is what people do when they are afraid or ashamed. i was neither.” And, “if we let cowards stop us living the way we want to, we let them win.” Alice Nightingale won't let them win, especially not with Joey, Manny and friend Tilda on her side. ~ Joanne Owen
A Note from the Publisher: Sad things happen in this book, but you will find yourself willing on Alice and Manny as they rejoice in the beauty of the world and work out how to take their places in it. Their story confronts identity and belonging and demonstrates the power of love, family and friendship.
The Stars at Oktober Bend by Glenda Millard
Alice is fifteen, with hair as red as fire and skin as pale as bone, but something inside her is broken. She has a brain injury, the result of an assault. Manny was once a child soldier. He is sixteen and has lost all his family. When Manny first sees Alice, she is sitting on the rusty roof of her river house, looking like a carving on an old-fashioned ship, sailing through the stars. He has a poem in his pocket and he knows the words by heart. And he is sure that girl has written them. When Manny and Alice meet they find the beginnings of love and healing.
About the Author
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Old Barn Books
2nd August 2016
Old Barn Books is an imprint of Old Barn Books
Old Barn Books is a new, artist-led, independent, publisher of illustrated books for children and gift books for adults. With an office in a barn in the woods we published our first book, Bluebell Bears, in April 2015 and have published a book each month since. Working with creative friends old and new we have published board books, picture books and novelty books. Our list is eclectic and personal and aims to share our enjoyment of great illustration and the things our children love.
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