Illustrated by Rachael Dean.
Published by Egmont, 2020.
Moonchild: Voyage of the Lost and Found is a magical adventure story that swept me along. It’s the story of 12-year-old Amira who has been raised at sea by her sea-witch mothers. All three have magical powers. Amira’s is the ability to sense other people’s emotions – she can literally smell or see them, even when they are deeply hidden. Excitement is like a freshly baked cake slathered in honey. Sadness: rotten eggs and burnt coffee. Amira also has a jinn, Namur, which takes the physical form of a cat. They go everywhere together.
After a terrible storm, they have to dock at Failaka in order to buy what they need for repairs to the boat. Amira has the rare opportunity to explore life on land and she chances to meet Leo – another child like her with a jinn and the ability to read emotions. As Amira learns more about jinn from Leo, she realises her mothers are hiding secrets from her. Desperate for answers, she sets off alone into the stormy sea. Although Amira survives, she loses her precious Namur. For the rest of the book Amira is on a quest to find Namur and uncover the truth about her destiny. It’s a tale full of enchantment: magic potions, tarot cards and a curse. There are magical creatures, a mysterious stormbird, whale song and mermaids.
There’s a great pace to the story and a thrilling amount of tension. I particularly enjoyed how Aisha Bushby builds a sense of foreboding. The threat of a storm hangs over the town of Failaka, clouds gather, nervous whispers grow into rumours, there’s unease and a tense humming in the air. We are just waiting for something terrible to happen.
I enjoyed the chatty narrative style with the narrator interrupting the story from time to time and addressing the reader directly. The structure of the book, as well as the exotic Middle Eastern setting, has been inspired by The Arabian Nights. Interspersed within the main plot are stand-alone stories which feel almost myth-like. They are told by the book’s main characters and connect to the main plot by providing the backstory.
The theme of family and belonging is particularly strong. I really liked the inclusion of a family with same-sex parents as the central family; it’s important to see different types of family set-ups represented in children’s fiction. These lines from the book are spot on:
“Families come in all shapes and sizes. All that matters is that they love you, and you love them back.”
I really enjoyed the book’s exploration of emotions and people’s different attitudes towards them. I think there is an unhealthy tendency in society to regard some emotions as “bad” or “negative” and in need of repression. In Moonchild Aisha explores the damage that is done when people bury their feelings deep inside. As someone who is quick to anger, I particularly related to the fiery character of Amira and thought it was interesting how Aisha does not dismiss anger as a negative emotion but one which is normal and necessary and only ever one part of someone’s character. I also appreciated the recognition that anger comes hand in hand with passion and determination.
The book is beautifully illustrated throughout by Rachael Dean. I especially liked the busy market scene and the picture of the angry, swirling sea and the stormbird’s attack.
Moonchild: Voyage of the Lost and Found is a book of adventure and friendship that celebrates the power of stories and the validity and importance of emotions. This is the first book in the series and I can’t wait to see where the characters journey to next.
Suitable for children aged 8+
Thank you to Egmont for sending me this book to review. I reviewed it as part of the Moonchild blog tour where Aisha talked to me about writing the book. Click here to read the interview.