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The Space We're In

Written by Katya Balen

Illustrated by Laura Carlin

Family / Home Stories Featured Books for 11+ readers Featured Books for 9+ readers Personal Social Health Economic (PSHE)

LoveReading View on The Space We're In

A powerful story of love, terrible loss, understanding and recovery.

Highly Commended in the Branford Boase Award 2020

Ten-year-old Frank loves code and numbers; they’re a way to make sense of the world, as well as providing secret languages to share with his friends and his mum. Frank’s five-year-old brother Max is autistic and for him the world is often a scary place, when anything unexpected, too loud or too bright can cause him to have a meltdown. The story is narrated by Frank and every reader will understand his frustration at the unfairness of life. We know that he loves Max, but we know too how hard Max makes life for all the family. Frank is then faced with something even more terrible when tragedy strikes. With the help of those around him we watch Frank find a way to make sense of what has happened and the bravery to cope with the different world.  Katya Balen has worked with neuro-divergent children and there’s a powerful sense of truth and understanding in her beautifully told story. 

If they like Wonder by R. J. Palacio they'll love The Space We're In.

Andrea Reece

Other Info

The Branford Boase judges said :  ‘an important book, beautifully written’; ‘so powerful, it enables us to see right into Frank’s mind’; ‘the insight into the family relationships is excellent’.

A message from the author Katya Balen; “I never ever wanted to write from Max’s perspective and use the voice of an autistic person, and I hope that Mainspring Arts provides at least one small platform for people to tell these stories themselves. But I have been immersed in the community since I was fourteen years old, and its stories have become part of my world too. I am desperate for more representation of ND people in the arts, as I know you are, and I am also hungry for stories about families where neurodivergence is simply part of human existence. I don’t want to sugar-coat neurodivergence but I do want to celebrate it.”

The Space We're In Synopsis

We are her world and her universe and her space and her stars and her sky and her galaxy and her cosmos too Frank is ten. He likes cottage pie and football and cracking codes. Max is five. He eats only Quavers and some colours are too bright for him and if he has to wear a new T-shirt he melts down down down. Sometimes Frank wishes Mum could still do huge paintings of stars and asteroids like she used to, but since Max was born she just doesn't have time. When tragedy hits Frank and Max's lives like a comet, can Frank piece together a universe in which he and Max aren't light years apart? This jaw-dropping, heartbreaking and hopeful novel from debut author Katya Balen will remind you we are all made of stardust. For fans of thought-provoking, moving middle grade from Wonder to Skellig

The Space We're In Press Reviews

This sensitive, heartbreaking story boasts a wonderful narrative voice and secret codes that add another layer of intrigue - Guardian

The struggles of those with autism and those who love them in a book with an achingly huggable main character - Kirkus Reviews

A brave and beautiful book with a big heart. I loved it. - Jenny Downham

This is a moving, absorbing novel about a pair of brothers - one is autistic, one is not, and I came to love both of them - Joanne Limburg, author of The Autistic Alice

What Balen captures in Frank's voice is the authentic experience of being ten and facing up to all the difficulties that brings. His story, and that of his family, will live long in the hearts and minds of its readers - A.F. Harrold

Invigorating, enlightening and exciting are the only words that describe the opening chapters of The Space We're In, as 10-year-old wild boy Frank and his (yep, you guessed it) autistic brother, Max, prepare for their first day back to school - James Sinclair, Autistic & Unapologetic

A truly extraordinary book ... It packs a pretty powerful punch but is a beautifully written and ultimately uplifting story with stunning artwork. Warning: you will need tissues - Angels and Urchins

Laura Carlin's monochrome illustrations combine artistic skill with a childlike element that complements the text - Books for Keeps

Stunningly beautiful, I cried and smiled my way through this book in turns [...] Katya Balen has captured the sense of wanting to be grown up, but still being a child perfectly. - North Somerset Teacher's Book Awards Blog

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All versions of this book

ISBN: 9781526601971
Publication date: 17/09/2020
Publisher: Bloomsbury Childrens Books an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9781526610942
Publication date: 05/09/2019
Publisher: Bloomsbury Childrens Books an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9781526601940
Publication date: 05/09/2019
Publisher: Bloomsbury Childrens Books an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Format: Hardback

Book Information

ISBN: 9781526601971
Publication date: 17th September 2020
Author: Katya Balen
Illustrator: Laura Carlin
Publisher: Bloomsbury Childrens Books an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 304 pages
Suitable for: 11+ readers, 9+ readers
Genres: Family / Home Stories, Gritty Reads, Personal Social Health Economic

About Katya Balen

Katya Balen read English at university and then completed an MPhil researching the impact of stories on autistic children's behaviour. She has worked in a variety of special-needs schools and is the co-founder of Mainspring Arts - a not-for-profit organisation that provides creative opportunities for neurodivergent adults.

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