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Norah's Ark

Sunday, August 27, 2023

I am so happy to welcome you to my blog today for my stop on the tour for Norah's Ark by Victoria Williamson. I love good middle grade books and if you look around my blog you'll find reviews of other middle grade books. This book is a stand out of the genre and I am so glad I got to join in the tour!

The book is told from two perspectives, those of Norah and Adam. They are the same age and will be going to senior school in September. However, at the beginning of the book they don't know each other.

Norah is small for her age and is living in a hostel with her dad. They are technically homeless and her dad doesn't have a job. They have very little money and Norah is often hungry. They have to use the foodbank and Norah's dad has to spend a lot of time at the job centre and looking for a job. He struggles to read, though, which doesn't help him. She also struggles with things like reading and counting, which means she is in a special class and is bullied at school. 

She is bullied by a girl called Chelsea, who lives with a foster family and who is also in the special class, but she has a lot of fancy things so she's quite in with the popular girls. Norah has a bike that she loves, and she spends a lot of time in the park by herself while her dad is in the betting shop with his friend Ed. She also loves animals - she has a pet spider that she rescued and she has been feeding a nest of baby birds. This is how she meets Adam. 

Adam lives in a "big, posh" house that backs on to the park. He has been ill for years with leukaemia but he's finally better. But his mum still thinks he's ill and won't let him go back to school, or go back to swimming, or even leave the garden. His dad is a lawyer and working hard and is barely around, and his mum gave up her job and now mostly keeps herself busy worrying over Adam. He would love to go back to school but isn't allowed. He finds the nest of baby birds and brings them into his treehouse. When Norah arrives, the two become friends eventually and work together on the birds. 

The very best of middle grade does a thing where it tells very complex stories - homelessness! lack of money! childhood cancer! - and makes them accessible to nine, ten, eleven years olds in a clear, concise way. This does exactly that and that makes it a joy to read. It is so empathetic towards both kids that I really feel like any child could understand their circumstances even if their lives are very different. I also thought it was really good that both Norah and Adam at first think that the other lives a perfectly charmed life. It's a true life lesson to learn that things aren't always as they seem on the outside. I also liked the very frank look at the benefits that Norah and her dad were living on and how they sometimes got messed up by things out of her dad's control. 

I also thought the ending was really good - it was really well drawn and while not a perfectly happy ending, it worked well for the age group. 

I will say that my only criticism is that the book is set in Hull but there were some phrases that sounded really un Yorkshire to me (I am from West Yorkshire!). When I read that the author is Scottish that made more sense because a lot of the phrases are used by my Scottish friends. For example Norah at one point picks up the laundry that "needs washed". We in Yorkshire would say "needs washing". I also doubt that a kid would pick up on these, but it's my only criticism. 

I am giving this book four out of five because I just LOVED it! I loved Norah and Adam. 

I was provided with a paper copy of this book for review purposes only. I was not otherwise compensated for this post and all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

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