The January Stars – Kate Constable – Allen & Unwin – Published 31 March 2020
When twelve-year old Clancy and her fourteen-year-old sister, Tash, visit their Pa at his aged-care facility, they have no idea that the three of them will soon set out on an intrepid adventure.
Along the way there are many challenges for Tash and Clancy to overcome and in the process, they discover their own resourcefulness and resilience and demonstrate their heartfelt love for their grandfather.
A delightful Australian middle-grade fiction, The January Stars combines a heist (sort of) with a magical (maybe?) journey across Melbourne, that results in a extraordinary story about family, listening and the stars.
When 12-year-old Clancy’s parents leave on an emergency family trip to New Zealand, she and her older sister Tash convince their parents they will be fine to stay with their aunt. But when their aunt also leaves on a trip, the girls find themselves alone. They decide to visit their grandfather in his aged-care facility and thanks to a slight incident with a cat, an open door, runaway residents and an angry nurse, the girls find themselves on the run with their Pa. The girls must pool their resources and shelve their constant fighting if they are going to outrun the growing amount of adults that seem to be chasing them, including an irate real estate agent and the police.
I was totally hooked by the idea of a story in which two young girls steal their grandfather from a nursing home. It was utterly delightful from start to finish. Clancy and Tash manage to accidentally break their Pa out and he couldn’t be happier. After suffering a stroke, Godfrey can’t speak much and relies on a wheelchair to get around but he is plenty able to communicate his happiness to run away with the girls. They start by visiting their old family home and venture from there as various adults challenge them.
Clancy is our narrator. She is used to being bossed around by Tash, but she is quite happy to let Tash take the lead in their adventure. Clancy is good at spotting details and listening, but it also makes her a little anxious about things. As the girls and their Pa continue their adventure, Clancy reflects on her relationship with her Nan, who seems to be directing their path. They make a few friends along the way and avoid confrontations with a number of people who seem to want to stop them. The characters are diverse. Clancy and Tash are Chinese Australian and reflect on the way people question their heritage and connection to their Australian grandparents. There are also LGBT representations.
The January Star is a fun story. Perfect for middle-grade readers who like a touch of the magical in their realistic fiction. This is a wonderful cross-generations story about family, memories and love.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Children’s fiction, Middle-grade fiction.
Themes: Family, grandparents, aged-care, death, stars, Melbourne, sisters.
Reading age guide: Ages 10-14.
Published: 31 March 2020 by Allen and Unwin.
Format: Paperback, ebook. 288 pages.