The author of The Girl and The Goldcrest, Steve Draper, is from Sheffield. Because it’s Yorkshire and Steve mentioned Leeds Living, we agreed to make an exception to read the 200 page book and review it!
I’m glad we did.
Steve Draper has managed to address many of today’s social issues whilst retaining the spirit of youthful enquiry and adventure, the latter reminiscent of Leeds’ own Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons with a fantastical thread akin to Dr Dolittle.
A bit of realistic mother-daughter conflict starts us off, after which I very quickly found myself being curious and wanting to read on.
The story’s strong element of fantasy focuses on a young girl’s ability to speak to animals, who themselves have the power of speech (including rather good grammar!) The animals have Guardians whose remit is to protect their own species against extinction and this involves dealing with the threats to their continuity. Emma and her friends can readily empathise and it’s not long before we realise that the author’s consideration is very much what sort of world is being handed to the next generation and how they might be equipped to take on the responsibilities such as reducing the adverse impact of climate change.
Our heroine Emma’s father disappeared in mysterious circumstances, I think ‘last year’, although two Christmases are mentioned. She had an excellent relationship with him and so she naturally misses him a great deal.
Emma already has a good friend and gains, on the face of it, less likely ones as the tale unfolds, as well as a growing circle of new friends from the animal world. We follow their adventures as they develop some pretty nifty teamwork and, as a force for good, they grapple against evil. (There has to be a villain in the mix for a good yarn, and this is a good yarn.)
I should also mention the illustrations, by Brian Smith. They are delightful; charming; an excellent treat that surely helps engage even the reluctant reader.
Steve Draper draws us, in words, into other issues such as poaching, bullying, generational differences, peer pressure, fat shaming, animal cruelty, cultural and intellectual differences, myth versus science, family conflict – even the impact of conflict in other countries. The threats of text messaging are balanced by clear advantages of children having a mobile ‘phone. I really appreciate the way in which the author finds redress wherever he can.
The prevailing question is whether good overcomes evil in the end. Woe betide me if I tell you. What I can say is that it’s worth you finding out for yourself. You’ll want to read it, some of you before you wrap it in Christmas gift paper and place it under the tree for an 8 – 12 year old of your acquaintance!
The Girl and The Goldcrest is published by Cranthorpe Millner
ISBN number 978-1-80378-155-6 in paperback
Recommended reading age group 8 – 12 years. If you’re a lot older and young at heart, The Girl and The Goldcrest is a very pleasant, sometimes nostalgic and perhaps even therapeutic read.