2010, Chicken House
International Reading Association Children’s and YA Book Awards,
Intermediate Fiction, USA (winner)
Prime Minister’s Literary Awards, Australia (shortlisted)
Costa Book Awards, UK (shortlisted)
Waterstones Children’s Book Prize (shortlisted)
“One cold winter morning, Dad gets sick – and goes into hospital. It’s there I meet Harry, with his scruffy hair and firefly eyes. From his window we watch a wild swan on the frozen lake outside. There’s something different about her, truly different. Almost magical. Perhaps, if we can help her, everything else will begin to make sense.”
This is a story about Isla, who is trying to hold her fracturing family together as well as rescue an injured wild whooper swan. While visiting her father in hospital, Isla meets Harry, the first boy to understand her and her love of the outdoors. But Harry is ill, and as his health fails, Isla is determined to help him in the only way she knows how. Together they watch a lone swan struggling to fly on the lake outside Harry’s window. Isla believes that if she can help the damaged swan, somehow she can help Harry and maybe even her dad too.
I wrote a version of this story for my MA in Creative Writing. Back then the story was called The Long Flight and it was about an eleven year old boy called Adam. It was good enough to get me noticed by my publishers, Chicken House, for which I’m always grateful. However, it still needed a lot of work. I rewrote this book ten times before I was happy with it – I changed it from Adam’s perspective to Isla’s perspective, I changed the tense from past to present, and I changed it from third person to first person; I even introduced a love story. At one stage, this book was even firmly in the magical realism genre. I really learnt to write through the process of developing this novel – I learnt about how long it takes to get something right and the patience and courage you need to keep on going. I’m really proud of this book now. When I get asked about what my favourite novel is, I often say it’s this one.
“Will tug at your heartstrings.”
“… heart-warming and rather lovely”
“Quiet but compelling. Sensitive.”