BooksforTopics Reading for Pleasure Recommendations
Today is our stop on the blog tour for The Girl Who Lost Her Shadow by Emily Ilett, which is publishing this week (available here).
Read on for a guest post by the author including an extract from the book.
by Emily Ilett, author of The Girl Who Lost Her Shadow
One of the things I like most about writing is how it changes the way you see the world around you. When I first started thinking about The Girl Who Lost Her Shadow, I found myself watching shadows all the time; my own shadow, the shadows of people around me, shadows of trees, clouds and birds. I became curious about what happened when you jumped up, or moved around a flame, and how shadows grow and shift and flutter.
And I started to wonder why a young girl’s shadow might run away, and where it might be going. This grew into the beginning of this middle grade story, which follows the journey of a 12 year old girl called Gail as she travels across a small Scottish island to find her sister’s shadow.
Gail was eating cornflakes when her shadow disappeared. She wasn’t surprised. Everything was falling apart, including her. And it was all Kay’s fault.
Kay was Gail’s sister. She was three years, four months and seven days older than Gail. She’d been the best swimmer on the island ever since she first learned backstroke. But now she was sinking.
Gail and Kay used to do everything together. But when Kay becomes depressed, Gail doesn’t understand why her sister is slipping further and further away from her. When Kay’s shadow disappears soon after her own, Gail becomes convinced that if she brings her sister’s shadow back, everything will go back to the way it was before. And so begins a journey that takes Gail deep inside underground caverns and through old forests, where she makes new unexpected friendships and draws slowly closer to discovering why the shadows ran away and what they are seeking…
In this extract from chapters two and three, Gail has followed Kay’s shadow up a steep hill at the edge of their village.
Extract taken from The Girl Who Lost Her Shadow By Emily Ilett Published by Floris Books
From where she sat, halfway up Ben Fiadhaich, Gail could just make out the dip of the beach where she’d found the crab shell. There, the rock pools swam with anemones, sea urchins and snails. She could see the path that they’d fly down most days, all the way to the water. Before school, after school, weekends. Birthdays.
Some mornings the ocean was almost too blue to believe in. Other days, they darted from the grey rush of it, daring each other to stand further and further out on the rocks so that they came home soaked and shivering, the dare shining out of their eyes. Kay always went further than Gail. Always two steps closer to the edge.
The drizzle had stopped. Gail bit her lip and lurched to her feet, turning away from her home towards the south of the island. Here, the ground rose knuckled and gnarled. Around the dark tangle of Grimloch Woods, hills towered, threatening as shark fins, their sides tumbling down into steep valleys and lochs where the cold, luminous water seemed to reflect skies from whole other worlds. It was a long and treacherous hike to reach the sharp southern tip of the island, where the ocean lashed at the cliffs and the path crumbled into jagged arches. Few people walked that way, and even fewer lived there.
Gail and Kay had often talked about that journey to the southern tip. They knew that was where the Storm Sisters were, two huge rocks standing right on the edge of the cliff. The story went that the Storm Sisters were giants turned to stone many years ago. People said that the Sisters protected the island, calling the ocean to batter hardest against their faces and spare the rest of the coast. As soon as they’d heard the story, Kay was enthralled. She suggested they hike south and look for them and they’d spent hours planning what they’d take and when they’d go.
But that was before everything had changed.
Gail turned back to the hillside, scanning the slopes for her sister’s shadow. Where had it gone? She hurried upwards, her eyes darting from side to side until – wait, was that it? Gail straightened, her hand shielding her eyes. There it was. A dark blur, paused near—
Her stomach flipped.
The shadow hovered at the entrance to Oyster Cave.
For a wild moment, Gail thought it was waiting for her. But then it shuddered, the darkness within it trembling, and Gail remembered that she was the one who had chased it away. “No,” she called out, as the shadow slid towards the gaping hole. “Wait!” she shouted, and her eyes widened as she saw the shadow steady for a moment, then twitch and slip neatly into the cave opening.
The cave arched open like an oyster shell, wrinkled and gnarled at the edges and narrowing towards a closed hinge at the back. At the far end, where the rock closed together, a small low opening continued into the darkness. Big enough for a child to crawl through; too small for an adult. Kay’s shadow was nowhere to be seen.
The cave’s name rippled through homes across the island. Oyster Cave. Everyone knew someone who knew a story about it. Oyster Cave’s where the selkies leave their skins, you can smell the damp fur when the wind’s blowing in the right direction. Did you hear about the boy that went missing in the cave? They found him weeks later, nesting with the birds…
And, Kay’s voice, last summer: “They didn’t speak for days afterwards. They couldn’t. Every time they opened their mouths, nothing came out.”
She’d whispered it with something like awe mixed in with her mouthful of spaghetti. Two girls and a boy from her class had spent the night in the cave, had crawled through to the network of tunnels beyond. The next day, they’d stumbled into the village, dulleyed and silent.
“Why couldn’t they speak?” Gail had asked as her sister’s nose wrinkled in delight at the story.
“They were lost in there for hours, Gail. Hours and hours in the darkness, trying to get out. Imagine it.” Kay’s voice dropped. “Maybe they saw something…”
Their mum grunted, spooning more spaghetti onto their plates. “More likely they frightened themselves stupid with ghost stories,” she said. “But no one knows how far those tunnels go, so don’t either of you be going anywhere near them.”
Kay grinned and Gail saw her fingers crossed beneath the table when she nodded. Later, skin prickling with stories, Gail had made Kay promise not to go without her.
But now she had to leave Kay behind.
Gail pulled the torch out of her bag and stepped inside the cave. Salt stung her nostrils. Her feet felt colder without her shadow and she stamped on the ground to warm them.
Of course Kay’s shadow would be the most awkward shadow ever. Why would a shadow run away to the deepest, darkest, stinkiest place it could think of? Gail grimaced and shoved her backpack through the hole ahead of her. Falling to her stomach, she wriggled through the gap at the back of the cave, pieces of grit showering her shoulders.
The tunnel soon opened up and after a metre or so she could stand again. The air was furry, like spider’s legs, and Gail felt the darkness in her mouth like it was a solid thing. Her hands trembled as she switched on her new torch and the tunnel became alive with lumpy columns of rock and knots of shadows.
Gail shrank back against the damp wall. She moved the torch slowly, shadows twitching and flitting around the light like shoals of sardines.
“Kay? Kay’s shadow?” Her voice was thin and the rock echoed it back to her, broken and confused.
Gail inched forwards, the torchlight catching the curve of the tunnel. She rounded the corner and yelped, her breath puffing out in a white cloud of shock as she stumbled backwards.
There, swimming through the cave wall, was a manta ray.
The Girl Who Lost Her Shadow publishes 26th September 2019 by Floris Books. More information can be found here.
Many thanks to Emily for writing the guest post and to the publisher for inviting us to be part of the blog tour.
Keep an eye out for our Review Panel's thoughts about the book to follow soon on the blog, too.
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