Updated: Jun 8, 2018
BooksforTopics Reading for Pleasure Recommendations
Book Title: Ella on the Outside
Author: Cath Howe
Publisher: Nosy Crow
Publication Date: May 2018
Most Suitable For: Years 5-6
Ella on the Outside is a superbly honest debut from Cath Howe, with authentic characters and important themes of friendship, loyalty, self-acceptance and parental responsibility. For me this was a thoroughly enjoyable read and I’m convinced the characters will resonate strongly with lots of readers in upper KS2.
It’s not easy being the new girl at school and Ella tries her best to fit in, wondering who to be friends with, struggling with the eczema that covers her skin and doing her best to not let on the big family secret that she and her mum are trying to put behind them. When very popular classmate Lydia shows an interest in making friends, Ella is flattered and desperate to please Lydia to gain a place in her inner circle. There is also Ella's mysteriously quiet classmate Molly, who says very little and who, just like Ella, appears to be harbouring family secrets of her own. As the plot unfolds, Ella is left to navigate through the tribulations of friendships, dealing with adults who don't always do the right thing and figuring out what the best way to handle big secrets might be.
The narrative voice is hugely relatable and the theme of friendship is addressed with due recognition that sometimes there are no easy answers when it comes to human relationships, but that loyalty, integrity and time investment are important foundations on which good friendships are built. I like the way that the reader is never patronised but instead is taken on a journey with Ella as she works through some tricky situations, trying to figure out the best thing to do. Cath Howe has set this story in an honest reflection of a world in which children and adults alike are flawed and struggle deeply with life’s ups and downs.
As well as the themes of friendship and loyalty, the book also addresses issues of parental responsibility, childhood eczema, mental health and the impact of having an absent parent. This is a gripping and emotive read filled with heart and I recommend it for readers in upper KS2.
Many thanks to the publisher for kindly sending me a review copy of this book.