Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Ghostscape by Joe Layburn (illustrations by John Williams)

2008, Frances Lincoln
112 pages, Hardback
Review Copy

Children's, 9+

Cushions: 2
Smiles: 3
Tissues: 3
Yunaleska's recommended rating: ♥♥♥♥♥+

Summary from Frances Lincoln

When Aisha comes across a pale, skinny boy called Richard in the school washrooms, of all places, she is as surprised to meet a 1940s boy as he is to see a black girl wearing a headscarf. Aisha is transported back sixty years to the time of the Blitz, when her school was a sanctuary for East Enders fleeing the bombing. But Richard becomes more than just a friendly ghost; he helps Aisha confront her difficulties at home with her mother, where she is torn between two cultures, and at school where a tough schoolmate is determined to give her a hard time. Finally, Aisha decides to find out the history of her area during the Blitz, and what she discovers makes her realise that she must warn Richard about what is going to happen - but how…?

The reason behind requesting this book was in anticipation of Joe Layburn's next book, Street Heroes which comes out later on this year.

This book is wonderful. I think the message which is primarily being conveyed is the trauma that people suffer in the world, day in day out. The second world war was horrific. Acts of incredible human cruelty happen every day, in Somalia, in Africa - in every continent (although less so the two poles). These aren't pleasant global issues, but they are just as important as global warming, and I'm glad to see them addressed in a way that doesn't scare me off learning more about them. Yet this wasn't the message which I identified with the most.

I picked it up and cheered. Here is a fantastic portrayal of how ordinary Muslims are. I've read a few books with Muslim girls in, and this my favourite so far. Aisha has experienced tough situations in her life. These are much worse than the bullying she receives, but she still doesn't like being bullied. I'm glad she has the strength to continue wearing the hijab (headscarf).

What was wonderful about this story was how Richard accepted her and how she looked. He didn't care about her appearance. He likes her personality, and gives her solid advice on how to deal with her current difficulties.

There's a scene where Aisha has a conversation with a 1940's vicar. Considering the time period, he's a pretty liberal minded vicar. I really liked his reactions to Aisha, it serves as a reminder that although religions can feel quite different, there is an underlying similarity of wishing for peace in the world.

The illustrations dotted throughout the book help paint a clearer image of the characters: it really is true that a picture is worth a thousand words. Richard's grandfather is exactly how I imagined him to be, and Aisha is undoubtedly my favourite character in the book, with a great sense of fashion.

This is a book I know I'll read over and over. It's had quite an impact on me, more than I expected it to. There's a huge plot twist at the end which first had me gasping, then had me smiling away. I'm really eager to read Street Heroes - I'll review it here :)

Liked this? Try Auslander by Paul Dowswell


Miriam Halahmy said...

This sounds really interesting. I'll definitely look out for it, both for the historical background and for the character of Aisha, a Muslim main female character. Thanks for the review!

Joe Layburn said...

Are authors allowed to say, Wow thanks for a great review? I'm going to anyway! Really glad the story worked for you.

Yunaleska said...

Authors are very much allowed to comment! Thank you.

FYI: Interview with Joe will be going up tomorrow (thank you for it).

Rose Works Jewelry said...

Sounds like an interesting one :)

Keren David said...

Great review - looking forward to reading this. Yunaleska, you have an award on my blog. And so does Joe...

Yunaleska said...

Thanks Keren!

Becky said...

I really should have read this by now. I have a copy in the school library. Shame on me. Great review.

La Coccinelle said...

Hmmm... this looks interesting.