By Author / Illustrator
Friends and family
Little Tiger Press Group
Paperback / softback
Set in a world where words appear physically when people speak, AWAY WITH WORDS explores the importance of communication and being there for those we love.
Gala and her dad, Jordi, have just moved from home in Cataluna to a town in Scotland, to live with Jordi's boyfriend Ryan. Gala doesn't speak much English, and feels lost, lonely and unable to be her usual funny self. Until she befriends Natalie, a girl with selective mutism.
The two girls find their own ways to communicate, which includes collecting other people's discarded words. They use the words to write anonymous supportive poems for their classmates, but then someone begins leaving nasty messages using the same method - and the girls are blamed. Gala has finally started adapting to her new life in Scotland and is determined to find the culprit. Can she and Natalie show the school who they really are?
An intriguing, thoughtful and lyrical exploration of how we express ourselves, for fans of Katya Balen, A POCKETFUL OF STARS and Lisa Thompson. "Utterly unique and movingly memorable, a wonderful story about what happens when we take control of our own narrative, and find ways to communicate across the gaps in language. Clever, brilliantly written, and thought-provoking, it will stay with you." - Sinead O'Hart, author of The Time Tider
This is an excellent book examining a number of themes in an accessible way for readers of middle grade fiction. Away With Words features a main character who has been forced to relocate from Cadaques in North-East Spain to Fortrose in Scotland after her Papa, Jordi, fell in love with a British teacher. Gala is struggling to learn the language, fit in at school, find friends and adapt to her new life in a very different environment. She makes a connection with another girl, Natalie, who whilst at school suffers from the severe anxiety disorder, selective mutism. Together they become 'word searchers' and use these discarded spoken words to create poems, which they secretly send to class mates to brighten their day. However they are not the only word searchers in school and Gala and Natalie are wrongly accused of using cruel words to hurt other student's feelings.
This book focuses on Gala and Natalie searching for the real culprit as Gala comes to terms with the move away from all she knows and loves. Although a mystery genre, Away With Words is a book about acceptance and kindness, inclusion and friendship. It offers the reader the chance to appreciate how Gala feels about a huge life change. Her emotions are further confused by the happiness this move brings to her father and his partner, Ryan. The book explores the complexity of family relationships and examines the ups and downs of class friendships. The ending is unexpected regarding both the mystery and the move.
The book celebrates the power of words. For both Gala and Natalie it is a story about finding your voice. The fantastical image of words becoming visible and communicating the emotion of the speaker creates superb imagery and the way the story has been printed further enhances this concept. I would recommend this book to lower school students and include it in my go to list of books encouraging empathy.
208 pages / Reviewed by Ruth Cornish, school librarian
Suggested Reading Age 9+
Taking the words from Julia Donaldson’s poem; 'I opened the book and in I strode', is exactly what happened for me with this fabulous story of family and friendships by Sophie Cameron. Away with Words is a stunning account of the unlikely friendship between two young girls. Gala, who has recently moved to Scotland from Cadaques in Spain, and Natalie, a selective mute who is mostly ignored by the other children in her year but often bullied by some.
Gala feels out of place at her new school, she misses her home and friends, and the little bit of English she does know is not enough for her to relax and begin to fit in. Unsurprisingly, Gala starts to feel angry with her father for making her leave her, 'cosy flat with pink and purple flowers that grew all over the balcony'. Fortrose is cold and grey, and definitely not home. One morning, while Gala is struggling with her emotions and feeling particularly home sick, she spots another girl who also doesn't appear to fit in. Natalie spends most of her time at school alone, unable to communicate with her peers because of her selective mutism. Her ability to interact with others in school is limited by her severe anxiety. However, as Gala quietly watches, she realises that Natalie has a fascination for words and language, and this is where Away with Words comes into its own.
Sophie Cameron's descriptive imagery, along with some very clever use of different fonts and text layout, enable the reader to understand the emotional strife of someone with English as a foreign language or who struggles for other reasons communicating their needs. Gala and Natalie find a way to overcome the 'language barrier' and become friends, however, they soon come to realise the power of the spoken word; the good and the harm it can do.
I really enjoyed this book and I am sure that it will be a popular, quick read for many KS3 readers. I am sure that the author's clever use of words will help some readers understand the frustrations experienced by children and adults who, for whatever reason, are unable to express themselves fully.
208 pages / Reviewed by Sam Phillips, teacher
Suggested Reading Age 11+