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October, October

Katya Balen

Published by Bloomsbury – September 17th September 2020

“We live in the woods and we are wild”

Until the year October turns eleven. That’s the year October rescues a baby owl. It’s the year Dad falls out of the biggest tree in their woods. The year the woman who calls herself October’s mother comes back. The year everything changes.

October and her father live alone in a wooden house in the woods, isolated but content with their simple life. They live off the land, making only a yearly trip in the the rusty Land Rover to the nearest town for essential provisions. October is wild and free. She makes dens, climbs tress, builds fires and makes up fantastic stories about the treasures she has scavenged from the woods. Her house is filled with books and she goes on magical adventures with the characters within them.

This world is theirs and they are alone.

When October was four, the woman who is her mother was gone. And that’s how it’s been ever since, just the two of them. But a terrible accident on her 11th birthday turns October’s world upside down and things will never be the same again…

October, is forced to give up her idyllic life, her animals and trees. She is plucked from her woodland home and forced to adjust to a new, alien environment full of cold white walls and her stories won’t come alive anymore, no matter how hard she tries. And then the very last piece of her wild world is taken away from her and she shatters into pieces.

We follow October as she struggles to adapt to her new life and connect with those around her. We feel her pain, her anger and loneliness but also share the first green shoots of friendship that blossoms and grows.

October, October is a story of letting go, even when you love something or someone so very much. It’s a story of forging new friendships, healing old wounds, making peace and moving on. This book explores the intricate nuances of family and presents an opportunity for children who have a difficult or strained relationship with a parent to identify with the feelings that October harbours for her mother. This is a heartfelt and emotional read throughout but I crumpled at the final words of the penultimate chapter which are so beautiful and sincere.

October, October is the perfect Autumn read – you can almost smell the damp leaves, crisp air and smoke from a distant bonfire. Children love the outdoors and would be desperate to cook potatoes on sticks and tell stories at the fireside – it would be an ideal book to read alongside forest school sessions. I devoured it in one sitting, truly enthralled in the atmospheric setting descriptions and swept away by the sheer emotion.

With thanks to NetGalley and Bloomsbury for providing me with advanced digital copy to review ahead of publication.

Also by Katya Balen

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