This last year has been a pretty wonderful one for writer Kiran Millwood Hargrave. Her first novel The Girl of Ink and Stars was published and instantly made a Waterstones Children’s Book of the Month, then shortlisted for the Jhalak Prize and took the trophy for Waterstones Children’s Book of the Year. I absolutely loved The Girl of Ink and Stars so was eager to see what she would create next.
The Island at the End of Everything is a stunning novel of plucky girls, friendship and brave adventures, just as Ink and Stars was. Amihan was born on Culion, an island colony for people with leprosy, where she has lived all her life with her mother Tala. When the government sends a new administrator to shake things up on Culion, Ami and the other children without leprosy are removed to an orphanage the next island over. Fearing for her mother’s safety, Ami sets out to return to Culion together with her new friend, kindly and brave Mariposa.
Millwood Hargrave handles both leprosy and life as a disabled person gently and with great respect, even opening up a conversation about person first descriptions of disability – person with leprosy as opposed to “leper”. These topics are really important for people to be exposed to and I’m really pleased to see these conversations being approached in Children’s literature.
A small diversion into nostalgia, if you’ll allow me. There is a scene in the book that reminds me so much of a memory that I had to share it with you. Before I returned to my rightful world of books, I worked as a research diver in the Philippines. One weekend a small group of us needed to travel to the island of Cebu, a few islands over from where we were based in the Central Visayas, in order to pick up some new diving gear. While we were there, we decided to make a little holiday of it and visited Jumalon Butterfly Sanctuary, a small butterfly sanctuary, museum and art gallery.
As ever Kiran’s writing is lyrical, rich in senses and transcends its middle grade genre. Honestly you need to read it. If you’ve not been reading children’s literature in recent years, I strongly recommend that you pick up one of her novels to see what you’ve been missing out on. Get it here.
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