October, October

October, October

By Author / Illustrator

Katya Balen, Angela Harding


Family & Home

Age range(s)



Bloomsbury Publishing PLC








October and her dad live in the woods. They know the trees and the rocks and the lake and stars like best friends. They live in the woods and they are wild. And that's the way it is.  Until the year October turns eleven. That's the year October rescues a baby owl. It's the year Dad falls out of the biggest tree in their woods. The year the woman who calls herself October's mother comes back. The year everything changes.

Written in Katya Balen's heart-stoppingly beautiful style, this book is a feast for the senses, filled with the woodsmoke smell of crisp autumn mornings and the sound of wellies squelching in river mud. And, as October fights to find the space to be wild in the whirling chaos of the world beyond the woods, it is also a feast for the soul.

Read a Q&A with Katya Balen



October, October by Katya Balen is truly a feast for all the senses. The words are so beautifully written that the book makes you feel part of the natural beauty that October lives and breathes every day, as well as a part of the wild whirling chaos of the world beyond the woods. This book brings to life the meaning of the word 'wild' and its juxtaposition with comparisons from the natural world and the consumers world.

October - the main character - lives in the woods with her Dad. She is wild. She has never experienced life beyond the woods, unless you count her annual trip into the village to get yearly supplies with her dad. She is free in the woods; she understands the natural world and she is happy. However, the year she turns 11 everything changes, as her traumatic past affects her not so certain future. October rescues a baby owl, the woman who is called her mother returns, and her dad falls out of a tree. Her life drastically changes in the blink of an eye and October must learn how to adapt to the new grey world that surrounds her.

What I love about this book is how the author embeds stories within it. October is a born scavenger and her ability to seek treasure helps her to develop a vivid imagination for storytelling. The treasures that she seeks in the woods and on the riverbed hold untold stories of mischief and adventure that October helps to verbalise. It is her way of making sense of the world, along with the numerous books that she devours.

I would highly recommend this beautiful book not only for the heart tugging storyline but for the splendid descriptions of the woodland and the city. October's perspective of the city is alarming yet enthralling. With every new discovery of the modern world she makes, life seems to become more bearable. I find it breath taking how the descriptions can profoundly move you and how the comparison between wild and free run not only through the theme of the environment, but the main characters sense of belonging too.

This novel would be a brilliant teaching resource for Upper Key Stage 2 English and Guided Reading. There are so many opportunities to develop inference from this book and the discussions would provide excellent starting points for independent writing. You could also develop writing that evolves from the themes entwined within the story: nature, isolation, wilderness, family, urbanisation, change, mental health - the list is endless. I really did enjoy reading this book and look forward to reading further work by this author.

304 pages / Reviewed by Hayley Summerfield, teacher.

Suggested Reading Age 9+


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