The Space We're In

The Space We're In

By Author / Illustrator

Katya Balen, Laura Carlin


Representation & Inclusion

Age range(s)



Bloomsbury Publishing PLC




Paperback / softback




We are her world and her universe and her space and her stars and her sky and her galaxy and her cosmos too...   Frank is ten. He likes cottage pie and football and cracking codes. Max is five. He eats only Quavers and some colours are too bright for him and if he has to wear a new T-shirt he melts down down down.
Sometimes Frank wishes Mum could still do huge paintings of stars and asteroids like she used to, but since Max was born she just doesn't have time.  When tragedy hits Frank and Max's lives like a comet, can Frank piece together a universe in which he and Max aren't light years apart?

This jaw-dropping, heartbreaking and hopeful novel from debut author Katya Balen will remind you we are all made of stardust. For fans of thought-provoking, moving middle grade from Wonder to Skellig



Frank is 10 years old and loves playing football and cracking codes. His brother, Max, is five and is autistic, often melting down...down...down when things change. Their mother works hard to help Max manage the world around him; Frank often wishes that she had more time to paint like she did before Max came along. When Max starts his new school, it seems that things might get a little easier, but then tragedy strikes the family the harshest of blows and Frank has to try to piece them back together.

Stunningly beautiful, I cried and smiled my way through this book in turns. Told through Frank's voice, the book starts just as Max is about to start a new school and Frank is about to enter Year 6. Author Katya Balen has captured the sense of wanting to be grown up, but still being a child perfectly.

Frank's feelings towards his brother are also sensitively explored; he is at times embarrassed and ashamed of Max and the way he behaves, and resentful of the amount of time and attention his brother needs, which causes him to feel guilty. And yet, the reader is never left doubting his love for his brother, even when Frank does.

The tragedy faced by the family is heart-breaking, yet handled extremely well. Love is a powerful thread through the story - the special code Frank shares with his mum, the mantra they share about the boys being more than her universe, their father's gentle humour - which shines through. Essential reading!

256 pages / Reviewed by Sue Wilsher, teacher

Suggested Reading Age 11+


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