Girl on the Fly

Girl on the Fly

By Author / Illustrator

Nansubuga Nagadya Isdahl


Personal Growth

Age range(s)



David Fickling Books




Paperback / softback




1992, Philadelphia, USA.Kamaria Kessy is 13, independent, confident and loving life.But BIG change is coming!She's fallen out with her best friend, Odie, and she has no idea how to talk to him about it.Plus her Tanzanian aunty is about to be her new roommate - NIGHTMARE! All Kam wants to do is focus on winning big with her relay team (and best girlfriends)! But to fly down the race track she's going to need to learn what truly makes her soar.



Girl on the Fly by Nansubuga Nagadya Isdahl is a heartfelt tale of family and friendship. Kamaria lives with her parents, who are originally from Tanzania, and when her Aunt Rose comes to stay, Kamaria's life is thrown into all sorts of turmoil. However, Kamaria slowly starts to appreciate Aunt Rose's rather unique perspective on life and, with the help of her friends and relay teammates, Kam finds her rhythm and all is well, eventually.

Set in 1992, this super story is interwoven with references to music, sport, and pop culture of the time, which helps to give Kamaria the rhythm that she needs to 'fly'. Written in three parts; 'on your marks', 'get set', and 'go', it not only tells of Kam and her friends as they prepare for the race of their lives but it also describes the emotional turmoil that many young people feel at Kam's age as they are about to leave their friends and school setting behind.

I really enjoyed this book, although I must admit I was not sure what I was about to read from the title. While I would keenly recommend this for Year 6 and 7 classrooms it is definitely one that will 'fly' off the shelves more readily once someone starts to talk about it in class. This would also make a great book for guided or shared reading; the points that arise for discussion are numerous and varied.

Girl on the Fly is a wonderfully written coming-of-age story, which will no doubt be enjoyed by readers aged ten years onwards.

352 pages / Reviewed by Sam

Suggested Reading Age 11+


13-year-old Kamaria Kessy lives in Philadelphia with her Momma and Baba (father), who are originally from Tanzania. Kamaria loves running and rhythm; she does not handle change well and needs time to come to terms with any changes in her life. So, when she learns that her father's sister, Aunt Rose, is coming to stay with the family following the breakdown of her marriage, and will be sharing her bedroom, Kamaria is not happy! In addition, she has other things to cope with; she has fallen out with her best friend, Odie, her track team is practicing hard for the state championships, and Kamaria is responsible for coming up with a chant to bring the team closer together and help them end the season victorious. Will this all prove too much for her, or can Kamaria find a way through all of these upheavals in her life?

I really enjoyed Girl on the Fly with its strong themes of family and friendship. Kamaria is such an interesting character; complex and loyal, she wants to do the best for everyone and worries about letting people down. She has somehow stopped speaking to Odie, a boy she has been best friends with since they were tiny, but does not really understand how this has happened and is too nervous to approach Odie to ask him why they are no longer friends. She is very close to her relay team friends, Neeka, Alexis and Luce, who are each great characters in their own right. However, Luce is moving away at the end of the school year; yet another change for Kamaria to come to terms with.

Aunt Rose is a brilliant addition to the novel. At first, Kamaria resents her coming into the family and making herself right at home, but the more time they spend together, the closer they become. Aunt Rose tells stories about her and Kamaria's father's childhood in Tanzania, and Kamaria begins to learn and understand much more about her roots. Rose helps Kamaria to cope with the pressures of her life; she encourages her to talk to Odie and heal their fractured relationship, and helps her to find the perfect words for her team chant. She is there for Kamaria through disaster and triumph, teaching her to be herself and to trust her instincts, and Kamaria comes to love her and feels that she has always known her aunt.

The author cleverly contrasts the noise and excitement of Kamaria's track meets with the quiet times she spends with Aunt Rose as they talk about Tanzania. We are also given a lovely insight into the lively and loving friendship Kamaria shares with her friends, with all of its ups and downs. There is also a gentle hint that her long friendship with Odie may just be blossoming into something else.

Girl on the Fly is a beautifully written coming-of-age story, which will be enjoyed by readers aged 11 and over. Special mention must also go to the beautiful book cover by Bex Glendining!

352 pages / Reviewed by Beverley Somerset, school librarian

Suggested Reading Age 11+


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