Gill Lewis, the acclaimed children’s writer, will be releasing her latest book this October.

‘Sky Dancer’ is centred on the controversial topic of the illegal killing of hen harriers (‘sky dancers’) and the relationship between these birds and driven grouse shooting. Joe, the teenage son of a gamekeeper on the local grouse moors is involved, from the first page, in a moral and emotional struggle between deep-rooted tradition and the ethical arguments against some of the keepers’ practices.

When I learned of the premise of the book, I was intrigued as to how such mature and divisive themes would be presented in a book aimed at young people. Since the book explores ideas about loyalty, grief, family hardship and community tension, it was key that the book be written with a lot of balance so that it was neither too disturbing nor difficult to read. I think that this was superbly achieved and full credit must go to Gill Lewis for the way that such themes were handled.

In focusing on such issues, I also really enjoyed how informative and educational the book was. It was clearly really well researched on two levels: the different arguments for the two sides of the hen harrier debate were fully integrated into the plot and secondly, there were various facts and pieces of information which I found to be very interesting. Thus I believe that while the plot is wonderful, the educational weight that this book carries makes it a must read for any-one interested in the natural world and that this book can be a tool for learning purposes.

I always find educational books to be useful, but what sets this apart from most books on this subject is the simple fact that it is fiction. Subsequently, the characters, the setting, and the plot are all fictional, giving Lewis the chance to weave an engaging and enjoyable plot and to give a very important message. It is for this reason that I would recommend this book for all ages; some, like me, will find it relatively simple, yet brilliantly informative, and I believe that most children will be able to connect with the characters and read a book which could open their eyes and encourage them to make a difference (you can pre-order it here).

So, in an area which the RSPB has devoted a lot of time and attention, Sky Dancer brings the debate to life for young readers, and looks set to be a great success.

Jojo Jenner

Author of Sky Dancer Gill Lewis