Aisha Bushby’s debut, A Pocketful of Stars, is shortlisted for the Branford Boase Award and impressed Books for Keeps. That story was set in the real world but also featured magic, enabling its protagonist to travel back in time and far away. Moonchild returns to the themes of family, love and loss explored there but is set completely in a fantasy world, one of deserts, souks and tropical seas, beautifully and very evocatively described. Twelve-year-old Amira lives on a dhow, sailed by her two mothers and shared with chickens, a temperamental, pregnant goat and Namur, her jinn, who is a cat. Her story began when her mothers rescued her from an enchanted island and this particularly matters, because this is a book about the importance and magic of stories, one in which storytelling opens the way to adventure and change.
If storytelling is one part of magic, then emotions are another. Amira is defined by anger, while Leo, the friend who joins her on the quest that drives the plot, is full of fear and anxiety. Along with everyone else in this world, they must learn to acknowledge their feelings in order to live out the stories of their lives. The thread about the importance of acknowledging emotion is perhaps not teased out quite as fully as it needs to be, but the magic of the story – and of the stories within the story – is irresistible. Equally appealing are the regular interjections from a mysterious narrator – who exactly that is will be revealed in the concluding pages.
Readers will be enchanted and will finish the book dreaming of adventures under sultry night skies and of having a jinn of their own to share them with. Aisha Bushby is talented author with a distinct voice and I’m looking forward to the next books in this series. One last note, there are illustrations throughout including double page spreads by Rachael Dean, an unusual treat in a book for this age group.