A Flash of Fireflies / Space Blasters: Suzie Saves the Universe

Two recent fiction titles from Farshore – thank you to the publisher for sending them for review.

A Flash of Fireflies
Aisha Bushby

We join twelve year old Hazel Al-Otaibi as she travels from Kuwait to England to stay with her great aunt (Grant as she calls her) in her fairy tale cottage in a village until her parents join her. She also has to attend summer school three days a week. Adjusting to her new, strange-seeming life triggers the return of Hazel’s fireflies that had constantly troubled her with demands and challenges when she was younger, leading her once again into compulsive, repetitive behaviours.

At summer school the project is fairytales and the teacher talks of the themes and typical tropes that go along with these popular tales and Hazel and her friend Ruby start their research into the deep dark forests, curses and enchantments contained therein. Hazel feels herself drawn into a frightening adventure of her own where she needs to fulfil increasingly challenging tasks and quests.

Adult readers see that this is the author’s brilliant and sensitive way of presenting what it’s like to live with the despair and compulsions of OCD, while younger readers are given the space to interpret what they are ready for as Hazel’s real and fantasy worlds intertwine. Hazel herself has support from Ruby, her teacher and Grant, who has ways of her own to deal with similar challenges.

By delving into the fairy tale world and exploring its tropes and patterns through new lenses, Hazel feels able to begin to take control and change her narrative: finding the inner strength to share her own story with Ruby and Grant is a vital step to challenging the hold the fireflies have on her.

Thought-provoking, magical, totally original and utterly compelling.

Space Blasters: Suzie Saves the Universe
Katie & Kevin Tsang, illustrated by Amy Nguyen

Meet young Suzie Wen with her head absolutely bursting with amazing ideas but feeling down because her best friend has recently moved right away and with a ban or supposed ban on building any new inventions, she is certainly not enjoying the school holidays. To liven things up she starts watching Space Blasters, her favourite TV series but before you can say ‘Super 3-D TV Gizmo’ she finds herself actually in the series aboard an actual spacecraft, TUBS. A surprise for Suzie but equally for the crew, Captain Jane, Spaceman Jack and Five-Eyed Frank the green alien. However they welcome her, with the exception of Frank who seems put out by the unexpected arrival of a small human, calling her a spy.

Before long though Suzie is feeling part of that crew and on an exciting mission, for it transpires that three moons have gone missing. This enables her to visit three planets, each with weird inhabitants. Then a situation occurs that means Suzie has to step up as Jack and Jane are unavailable for action, perhaps now she can win over Frank at last and play a vital part in finding those moons and saving the universe.

As the story concludes Suzie receives an invitation to remain aboard the spaceship for one more universe saving mission, which nicely sets us up for the next book.

Emphasising Suzie’s inventive talents, this is a fun story sprinkled with Amy Nguyen otherworldly black and white illustrations and with fact boxes of science information to spark readers’ interest.

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