Author(s): Vashti Hardy (author), Natalie Smillie (illustrator)
Publisher: Barrington Stoke
Publication date: October 2020
About the publisher: Barrington Stoke is a small, independent and award-winning children’s publisher. For over 20 years we’ve been pioneering super-readable, dyslexia-friendly fiction to help every child become a reader. From our specially designed font to the colour of our paper, accessibility is at the heart of everything we do. (Taken from the Barrington Stoke website)
For years Grace’s family have been wardens of the Griffin map, using its teleport technology to help people and fight crime across the land of Moreland. At thirteen, Grace is too young become a warden, but she longs to go on missions herself. After all, if her brother Bren can do it, why can’t she?
So when Grace finds herself alone with the map when a distress call comes in, she jumps at the chance to prove she’s up to the task. But the map transports Grace to a remote village where nothing is quite as it seems. Has she landed right in the middle of a treacherous scheme?
Vashti Hardy is back with another wonderful read: The Griffin Gate. I read it once and then read it again, just to be sure I’d taken it all in!
Unlike Hardy’s other books, The Griffin Gate is a compact 94 pages as it is intended to be extra readable, with a dyslexia-friendly format. Packed into the 94 pages is a thrilling adventure with our protagonist, Grace. I’m so impressed by (but not surprised!) Hardy’s ability for world-building, character development, and have a story complete with a strong plot in the space provided!
The Griffin Gate is a wonderful adventure story but also advocates for women and girls in STEM. Central to the story is the Griffin map, which was invented by Grace’s grandmother. This book normalises women being pioneers in technology and engineering, as well as social good, and that makes me so happy.
More than anything, I loved Grace. As a character, she has agency (find out about character agency here) but also a fantastic example of being a good person with a good personality. She is brave and wilful, but she’s also calm and highly logical. She keeps a clear head in stressful situations and thinks for herself, which is more than can be said for a lot of adults!
“Her attention was caught by a large beautiful spyglass. It was crafted in rosewood and overlaid with a wave pattern and the Mayor’s family crest, both in gold.”
The language, tone, and syntax is perfect for building confidence in independent readers whilst also working on vocabulary building. And if that wasn’t enough, the cover and illustrations by Natalie Smillie are beautiful and add depth to the story.
Overall, The Griffin Gate has everything you need in a story. I can picture a classroom being enraptured, the appeal for one more chapter at bed-time, or the total silence of an independent reader making their own way through the tale.
Many thanks to Barrington Stoke for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
You can support your local bookshop by buying The Griffin Gate through them directly, or via Waterstones.
What do you think of The Griffin Gate? Will you be reading it? Let me know in the comments below.
Wishing you a wonderfully bookish week,