By Emily Price
Released in September 2020, October, October is a beautifully descriptive middle grade novel about a girl who lives a wild and isolated life in the woods with her father. The book envelopes you with its vivid details of the picturesque woodland where October has spent most of her life, cut off from society. October is a heroine full of guts and furious bravery who learns that there is a place for her in the world beyond the smell of woodsmoke and damp leaves.
October doesn’t go to school or see her mother who abandoned her to live in London years before. Her life in the wild is one she loves, understanding the seasons and the nature that surrounds her. On October’s twelfth birthday, her Dad falls from a tree and needs to be taken to the city for hospital treatment. October finds herself thrust with the ‘woman who is her mother’ into a world she hates. The trains make her sick and the children bully her at school, nothing is as it should be anymore.
As her father slowly recovers in hospital, October finds she can adjust to her new life in the city. She takes up mudlarking on the River Thames which offers her an attachment to the outdoors again, waiting for the tide to come in to drop off treasures for her to gleefully hunt. Once October begins to accept her mother, she realises there is life and love beyond the woods.
The cover and illustrations by Angela Harding depict the landscape of a russet autumn season. The phrase, ‘never judge a book by its cover’ has no relevance when it comes to October, October. The cover is stunning and the words within will stay with you forever.
For anyone wanting a lockdown read that makes you stretch and bask in freedom, October, October is a touching story written in Balen’s evocative and lyrical prose. It teaches you that being different is good and the stunning imagery immerses you in an autumnal world. Read it with a box of tissues at your side.