Review: The Girl, The Cat and the Navigator

Updated: Nov 7, 2018

BooksforTopics Reading for Pleasure Recommendations

Book Title: The Girl, The Cat and the Navigator

Author: Matilda Woods

Illustrator: Anuska Allepuz

Publisher: Scholastic

Publication Date: November 2018

Most Suitable For: Years 4-6

A magical adventure with a strong female lead and a real fairytale feel to the writing style. Talented storyteller Matilda Woods (author of The Boy, The Bird and the Coffin Maker - available here) spins an enchanting new tale that brings together elements of mythology, fantasy and magical realism.

Brave young Oona feels shunned by her father and mother, who were hoping that their youngest child would be a boy after a prediction made by a travelling fortune teller. Besides, Oona has never fitted in with the other girls in her family – her nature is to be adventurous and bold and she is quite unwilling (unlike her sisters) to accept a fate of being married off to a rich prince at the first available opportunity.

Oona dreams of sailing the Great Northern Seas with her father and his crew, but in her world girls don’t belong on ships or adventures. Oona seizes the only real opportunity to join her father’s sea expedition aboard The Plucky Leopard by stowing away on board and hoping to find a way to win over the crew. The journey is perilous, the crew unwelcoming and her Northern Sea full of surprises.

Matilda Woods has created a narrative that is beautifully lyrical, slowing down in just the right places to savour the emotion that drives Matilda’s great courage to find her own place in the world despite the gender stereotypes she faces. With the help of a friendly navigator and a musical cat, Oona triumphs over all manner of dangers and readers will find her story is magical and uplifting. I particularly enjoyed the way in which Oona's journey to overcome discrimination and adversity was mirrored through the story in the gradual unveiling of a delightful magical world discovered out at sea.

Readers will enjoy recognising the fairytale tropes woven through the story. Anuska Allepuz’s illustrations also perfectly capture the warmth of the magical atmosphere. A joy to read, this is highly recommended for readers in upper KS2*.

Check out our special guest blog post by author Matilda Woods, explaining (in numbers!) how the book came to be.


You can order The Girl, The Cat and the Navigator online or from your local bookshop or library.

Many thanks to the publisher for kindly sending me a review copy of this book.

*Please note this book contains one instance of bad language (mild).


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