The Girl with Space in Her Heart by Ara Williamson: Poignant, funny and eminently wise, this is top-class reading for in-betweenies - book review -

The Girl with Space in Her Heart
The Girl with Space in Her Heart
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When Mabel Mynt’s dad mysteriously disappeared, it left a hole in her heart and a heap of anxieties that she stores in a ‘worry suitcase’ in her head.

When Mabel Mynt’s dad mysteriously disappeared, it left a hole in her heart and a heap of anxieties that she stores in a ‘worry suitcase’ in her head.

What makes things worse for Mabel is that she’s convinced it’s all her fault because on the one day Mabel forgot to tell her dad that she loved him, he walked out and never came back.

Children always know they are in for a reading treat when they open a book written by the incomparable Lara Williamson, creator of beautiful middle-grade novels like A Boy Called Hope and The Boy Who Sailed the Ocean in an Armchair, and a writer with love written right across her heart.

Williamson knows how to tackle serious, contemporary issues with humour, optimism, insight, and good old-fashioned common sense. Her stories make you laugh and cry, but they also entertain, educate and enlighten with the lightest of touches and the most imaginative plotlines.

In The Girl with Space in Her Heart, ideal for children aged between nine and twelve, she brings us a magical summertime read starring a young girl who views her troubled home life through the lens of poetry, folklore, and her all-encompassing love of space.

Mabel Mynt knows a lot about space... like how we feel connected to the stars because we are all made of stardust, that mum’s new boyfriend, Galactic Gavin, has eyes that twinkle like Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, and loves the stars just as much as she does.

She also knows that sometimes the perfect place for her outspoken older sister, Terrible Topaz, would be a black hole, but Mabel doesn’t know how to fill the space in her heart that dad left when he walked out.

Mabel tells everyone, including her cat Jupiter, that she loves them but on the day dad left, she forgot to tell him so it must be her fault that he has never come home. But there are other worries too in the suitcase she carries in her head… Topaz says Galactic Gavin, who she regards as a ‘dad replacement,’ has secrets and is in ‘a love triangle’ with another woman.

So Mabel is setting out on a mission of discovery to find the truth… and a little golden goblet dug up by her cat could have the answers because her teacher, Mr Spooner, reckons that it’s the long-lost Golden Goblet of Truth.

Will a touch of magic finally reveal the truth?

Williamson’s talents are on full show in this enchanting story which impresses not just with its masterful storytelling and superbly drawn cast of characters, but with the engaging blend of quirky humour and powerful emotions.

Mabel’s plight addresses topical subjects like children’s anxieties with both wit and warmth, as well as offering subtle lessons about the many vagaries of modern family life, the importance of honesty, however painful that may be, the enduring nature of love, and discovering that change is not always something to be feared.

Poignant, funny and eminently wise, this is top-class reading for in-betweenies…

(Usborne, paperback, £8.99)