Fans of Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s bestselling debut, The Girl of Ink & Stars will revel in this, her follow-up, a tale of compassion, family and finding your way home.
Amihan lives with her mother on a beautiful island, but it’s not as simple as it seems. Their lives have remained undisturbed for most of Ami’s young life, but the government is suddenly taking great interest in the island of Culion and its residents. A great interest, that leaves Ami and her community uneasy and afraid.
You see, many of Culion’s people, including Ami’s mother, are very sick, though Ami is not. Culion island, for all its beautiful forests, wildlife, and blue ocean, is a leper colony. An official with a sickness of his own arrives on Culion to tear Ami and the other children away from their parents under the guise of ‘a fresh start’. ‘Free, children!’ Mr Zamora cries as he leads them out of the island’s newly-fashioned ‘restricted’ area. ‘Fresh air from here on.’ Though for Amihan, the freedom arrives unwanted, and feels more and more like a prison.
Ami, with the help of newly-made friends, must fight to regain control of her future from Mr Zamora and the people he represents, must find a way to return to Culion and her mother.
Hargrave crafts Amihan’s story, and Ami herself, with believable magic, making her journey of love and fortitude immediately relatable. Threading through the narrative is Ami’s desire to see the butterflies her mother described in bedtime stories, the riot of living colour that once fluttered around her mother’s younger life with the father Amihan never knew. Her great need to see the butterflies is contrasted against Mr Zamora’s hobby as a lepidopterist, a butterfly collector – a hobby that necessarily requires hundreds of butterflies to die at his hand.
“Hargrave crafts Amihan’s story, and Ami herself, with believable magic, making her journey of love and fortitude immediately relatable.”
Experienced readers may be able to predict Hargrave’s final plot twist, but her narrative remains beautiful, enjoyable to read, and thought-provoking. It engages young readers with topics we are in great need of discussing: themes of otherness, empathy, and compassion for those different from us. Highly recommended for boys and girls alike.