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October, October

by Katya Balen

LoveReading View on October, October

Raw, lingering and stirringly lyrical, October, October had me hooked from opening to end. 

Conjured in language that crackles and smoulders like an autumn bonfire, this is a book of bones and bark, of frost and flame, captivating in the manner of Skellig or Stig of the Dump as it undulates towards a wondrous homecoming of the heart.


“We live in the woods and we are wild… Just us. A pocket of people in a pocket of the world that’s small as a marble. We are tiny and we are everything and we are wild.” October has everything she wants living in the woods in the house her father built. Her mother left when October was four and she’s adamant that, “I don’t want her. She’s not wild like we are.”  


This year October’s euphoria at the onset of autumn is sullied when she discovers a dead owl and a motherless baby owl: “my heart won’t stop bruising my ribs.” So, she rescues the baby, names it Stig and declares it her first ever friend. Calamity strikes when the woman “who calls herself my mother” arrives as a birthday surprise - her beloved dad breaks his spine after falling from a tree and October must stay with this woman – her mother – in London while he recuperates. In the chaotic city, October is a bird with clipped wings. Torn from her wild world, she implodes, becomes a “firework of fury”, until she strikes up a bond with a boy named Yusef and discovers mudlarking, which makes her once more “a wild animal skulking and prowling for food”, “a pirate hunting for treasure.”


An unforgettable story, an unforgettable heroine – it’s no exaggeration to hail this a future classic.

Joanne Owen

October, October Synopsis

October and her dad live in the woods. They sleep in the house Dad built for them and eat the food they grow in the vegetable patches. They know the trees and the rocks and the lake and stars like best friends. They read the books they buy in town again and again until the pages are soft and yellow - until next year's town visit. 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. 

October, October Press Reviews

Katya Balen's October, October is a very special new addition to the shelf and deserves classic status - Times Children's Book of the Week

October, October is fierce with a wild love. It draws you in to its heart, shakes you with a fury, wraps you in a spell of storytelling. In lyrical prose, Katya Balen gives us a modern day heroine filled with courage. I loved every page. - Jackie Morris

In October, October the greenwood meets the city. Wise and bright - I loved it. - Hilary McKay, author of The Skylarks' War

It's EXQUISITE. Read it. Wild yourself. Open your heart to it. Written with the pen of a poet and the soul of Mother Earth. Glorious. It's like nothing else I've ever read. - Liz Hyder, award-winning author of Bearmouth

A modern classic ... relevant, comforting and life-affirming - Scotsman

This book feels like a secret treasure found in the woods ... earthy and magic and beautiful. I want to buy a copy for everyone I know. - Sophie Kirtley

One of the most beautiful children's books I've ever read - Natasha Farrant

The world is not a simple place, and Balen draws a touching, spikey, sparky, dangerous, heartful portrait of a girl slowly learning that. - A.F. Harrold

This is what language can do - tell a story that burns with intense, furious passion, and yet be so disciplined that one never doubts, not for one moment, the emotional truths driving it. This song of the wild and of our most profound human longings is deeply moving, deeply satisfying, and it's my children's book of the year. - Kevin Crossley-Holland

One of my favourite books this year. Beautiful and uplifting, a powerful evocation of nature and wildness that I found both surprising and incredibly moving. Tears were shed! -- Jo Boyles - The Rocketship Bookshop

The perfect Autumn read - you can almost smell the damp leaves, crisp air and smoke from a distant bonfire ... It would be an ideal book to read alongside forest school sessions. - Primary Teacher Bookshelf

A timeless, lyrical treasure that sees a girl who's at one with the wild struggle with the world beyond her woods ... An unforgettable story, an unforgettable heroine - LoveReading4Kids

Balen's immensely touching, well-written story about the pleasures and perils of wildness combines a lush, autumnal sensibility with a perceptive story about a transitional phase in a young girl's life. - Booktrust

This is a sensitive account of adjusting to change and the grief that comes with it - CBI Mind Yourself 2020 Reading Guide

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All versions of this book

ISBN: 9781526601902
Publication date: 17/09/2020
Publisher: Bloomsbury Childrens Books an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Format: Hardback

Book Information

ISBN: 9781526601902
Publication date: 17th September 2020
Author: Katya Balen
Publisher: Bloomsbury Childrens Books an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Format: Hardback
Pagination: 304 pages
Genres: Children's Fiction,
Collections: 100+ Children’s Books to Read as an Adult - Grown-up But Never Outgrown., 60+ Novels to Bring You Back to Nature,
Categories: Animal stories (Children's / Teenage), Family & home stories (Children's / Teenage), General fiction (Children's / Teenage),

About Katya Balen

Katya Balen studied English at university. Since then she's worked in lots of special schools and is now co-director of Mainspring Arts, which runs creative workshops for neurodivergent people. When she's not writing books or planning projects, she likes to scroll through dog-rescue websites, bake and attempt to keep all her house plants alive. She lives in London with her partner and her ridiculously lazy dog, Raffi. Angela Harding is a fine artist specialising in nature and wildlife screen-prints as well as lino and vinyl cuts. Her beautiful prints appear in a huge range of galleries and have also been ...

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