October, October by Katya Balen

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Ill. by Angela Harding. Bloomsbury Children's Books, 2020. ISBN: 9781526620491
(Age: 10+ ) Highly recommended. October is a girl who thinks of herself as a wild wolf living in the woods with her equally wild father. In the woods she is confident and self-sufficient. She spends her days digging, climbing, running, learning, scavenging, growing food and using her imagination to make up fantastic stories. She does not need the 'woman who is her mother' and the only time she feels out of her depth is on rare trips into town for supplies.
On her 11th birthday October has just adopted a baby owl. She and her father are following their annual birthday ritual when something terrible happens, and suddenly everything is different. October is wrenched out of her wild life. She feels lost and angry in equal parts and shuts down.
It takes time, bravery, love and friendship for October to let new people into her inner circle and become open to finding something to be excited about again.
October's relationship with her parents is a clear theme throughout. Her father is fair, wise and warm as he guides, encourages and protects her. Her connection with her mother is complicated and sometimes ugly, but her mother offers unconditional love along with great patience, grace and kindness.
Katya Balen uses long sentences to brilliantly convey the breathlessness, anger, excitement, bewilderment and imagination of October. The illustrations by Angela Harding show the baby owl maturing, stretching and thriving throughout the story, mirroring October herself.
The end is very moving and satisfying as October comes back to the woods, where nothing and everything has changed.
"Being wild and free is different for every person and every thing and it can be folded into the woods or whirling through the city streets".
Includes a sneak peek at Balen's 2019 middle/upper grade novel, The space we're in.
Themes: Family, Relationships, Imagination, Nature, Fathers, Mothers.
Kylie Grant