Sita Brahmachari, illus. Jane Ray. Burley Gate, Herefordshire: Otter-Barry Books, hb, 9 781 910 959 978, 2018, £10.99, 94pp.
Fiction, myth, 9+ years
10-year-old Isla relocates to Orkney with her Scottish mother and African-origin father after the death of her brother and their loss becomes entangled with the local selkie legend.
The sense of a life lived at the edge of the land and of the healing power of the sea is what really endeared the book to me. This is beautifully captured in the delicate watercolour illustrations, the wonderful cover and the endpapers.
It is simple in the telling but deals with complex emotions: bereavement, sadness, displacement, all set against the backdrop of the ancient Scottish legend of the selkie. The ‘selkie’ or ‘seal folk’ are mythological creatures said to be capable of turning from seal to human form by shedding their skin.
This very special book is a collaboration between two children’s book creators at the height of their powers. Its format is unusual but very pleasing, one that it would be great to see used more frequently. More text than a normal picture book, more images than a novel of this length, but how well the two work together to tell this story so poetically.
Review by Pam Dix