Having developed a mini crush on Will from Emma Carroll’s Frost Hollow Hall Moontrug was so excited to hear Carroll has a new book out – another enchanting historical adventure for 9-11 years: The Girl Who Walked on Air.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we bring you to the sensational story of Louie Reynolds, whose dream is to become a circus showstopper. Whose tightrope talents put the finest performers to shame. Yet the path to fame is a rocky one. To travel it, Louie must first: witness a terrible accident, meet two mysterious strangers, cross Niagara Falls and look Death square in the eye. Will Louie find the the courage, Ladies and Gentlemen, to face such challenges and become the Girl Who Walked on Air?
Just like Rob Lloyd Jones’ Wild Boy, The Girl Who Walked on Air plunges the reader into the spine-tingling world of Victorian circus – a world of shimmering sequin outfits, dangerous tightrope walks, fortune-telling cards and knife throwing trapeze artists. And from the opening pages, Carroll’s words shiver with drama: ‘The bigger the danger, the bigger the crowd.’ From her birth, Louie Reynolds’ life was destined to be full of danger: ‘Another knife skimmed my left elbow… A glint of steel, the thwack thud as the final knives hit the board either side of my legs.’ And Carroll perfectly captures Louie’s sense of frustration at being over looked by Mr Chipchase as a showstopper and her emerging determination to see her skill through: ‘My heart steadied. I focused up ahead. Emptied my thoughts. Now it was just me and a long thin stretch of rope. My feet tingled. I let go of the tree and walked forwards.’ Carroll’s writing is so sharp and precise that the reader genuinely starts to feel as if they’re walking the tightrope with Louie.
Although the book is very much set in real life – there is a sort of magic to tightrope walking. Moontrug felt it in Katherine Rundell’s Rooftoppers and it seems Carroll has conjured up this magic again in Louie’s world. As Louie says to her guardian Jasper: ‘It’s the tightrope. It makes me feel magic’ and then later ‘The flames in me kept flickering till I was all lit up inside.’ Louie, who has always felt like an outsider (‘When I was just a baby [my mother] left me at the circus, the way most people forget an umbrella’) finally finds her identity on the rope and it’s exhilarating to read: ‘I stood very still. Felt the rope. Thought the rope. Imagined it as a part of me, a living, twitching thing.’
Carroll gives us a fantastically punchy heroine in Louie. She continually surprises and impresses while breaking every rule possible (the chase scene as she slips into the circus ring to watch the famous Blondin is awesome) – and when Louie fights back against her captor in America, Moontrug wanted to jump up and fist pump the air: ‘Mr Wellbeloved,’ I said. ‘I’ve only just got started.’ She dances like a savage with Gabriel which made Moontrug love her even more – and the friendship that develops between the two young showstoppers is brilliantly done. The Girl Who Walked on Air is a gorgeous read filled with everything that makes a book for 9-11-year-olds work: a determined heroine, a frightening villain, a vibrant and spine-tingling setting and a plots with dramatic twists and turns. Small wonder critics are comparing Emma Carroll to a modern Eva Ibbotson…