BooksforTopics Reading for Pleasure Recommendations
Today is our stop on the blog tour for Starfell by Dominique Valente and Sarah Warburton.
Read on for a review of Starfell followed by an exclusive guest post in which the author explains how a simple mistake was the starting point for a key aspect of the book's plot.
Book Title: Starfell (available here)
Author: Dominique Valente
Illustrator: Sarah Warburton
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: May 2019
Most Suitable For: KS2
Reviewed By: Nia Talbot, Assistant headteacher and EYFS teacher
Willow Moss is a witch but, according to her, not a very remarkable one. While her sisters inherited magical powers from their ‘seer’ mother Raine, like the ability to blow things up or the power to move items with their mind, Willow can find lost things (helpful if you need to find your neighbour’s lost false teeth!).
Willow's ability is sneered upon by her more ‘powerful’ sisters. The only family member who can really see Willow’s potential and who tries to boost her confidence is Granny Floss. This eccentric woman, who has herself fallen from grace in the magical world, tries to impress upon Willow how special she really is.
This message is reinforced when Moreg Vaine, the most infamous and powerful witch in Starfell, pays Willow a visit and asks for her help. Moreg explains that she needs help finding a lost day. A lost day!? Willow believes that Moreg might have lost her marbles (just like Granny Floss) until she tries to remember what she had done on that lost day – last Tuesday to be precise – and can’t remember a thing. The only image that comes to her is the face of Granny in a large hat. This spurs her on to help - but could something have happened to Granny Floss?
After packing her green carpet bag with essential supplies for this adventure, including her cantankerous ‘pet’ kobold (the monster under the bed), Willow and Moreg set off to find an oublier – a forgotten teller who can read people’s minds of the past. Willow can’t use her finding power as normal to summon the lost day back, as this might unravel the magical fabric of Starfell. Willow journeys to rediscover what happened to the lost day and to remember enough to know why Granny Floss’ image keeps coming to her. Along the way, Willow faces a range of challenges but also befriends a range of other inhabitants of the land who help her on her quest. With everything resting on her, can Willow rediscover the lost day and expose the culprit?
In Starfell, Dominique Valente has created a funny, heart-warming world that demonstrates how significant everyone is in their own way (even if they don’t think their talent is worth much) and how appearances can be deceptive. Sarah Warburton’s illustrations are as spellbinding as the book and compliment the story so beautifully. Thankfully, the adventure into Starfell doesn’t end with this book and I’m very much looking forward to the next instalment in this series.
Guest Blog Post
by Dominique Valente, author of Starfell
Why mistakes can be magical
I remember reading once that Neil Gaiman had meant Coraline to be Caroline, but ending up transposing the letters – to create something far more unusual and distinctive. The writer Kirsty Logan, did a similar thing in Gracekeepers, when she’d put a c in place of a v. Mine wasn’t as glamorous at a typo. It was a misplaced comma, but this seemingly small mistake, led to the best idea I’d ever had, completely by accident.
When I started writing Starfell around eight years ago, the character of Willow Moss, age twelve, with the worst magical ability in her family… appeared one day while I was driving home from work, while I was thinking about how so much fantasy always seems to have a ‘chosen one.’ Someone who is the long-lost princess, the only one with magic in a thousand years … etc. Willow appeared almost fully formed as the anti-chosen one. The one who has to choose herself, to save the day.
I started writing it the next day. I don’t know what it is about less perfect characters, perhaps because I relate more, but they have enormous appeal. It’s probably why I have always liked witches and hags in fairy tales more than the princesses …
In a bevy of excitement, I shared my first chapter with my best friend, who was incredibly kind and supportive, and had a field day fixing all my appalling grammar. One of these corrections was a query about a misplaced comma, in which it appeared that Willow, amongst finding misplaced wallets and wooden teeth had also found last Tuesday. Was this what I intended, she asked? Of course not, I answered. A missing day? How absurd … only to sit up (three years later…) while on holiday in France, realising that actually THAT could be the ENTIRE plot for book one! It was kind of a Eureka moment while I was trying to have a nap and my brain had other ideas …
It took a long time to really get a handle on what a missing day would evolve, how it would impact everything great and small and what this might mean for an entire world, which is why I think it took so long to write (seven years) and to finally get an agent once I’d got it to where it was before it was accepted for publication, there were lots of agent rejections before. One of the big advantages, aside from finally having it be published, is that I now have an excellent excuse for making mistakes and embracing them as you never know where it might lead…
STARFELL: Willow Moss and the Lost Day by Dominique Valente out now in hardback (£12.99, HarperCollins Children’s Books)
Follow Dominique on twitter @domrosevalente
Many thanks to Dominique for writing the guest post and to Review Panel member Nia for reviewing our copy, provided by the publisher.
Check out the other stops on the blog tour, too!