If you read my blog regularly, you will already know I am a big fan of Kate Gordon. All of the books I have read from Kate have filled my heart, made me cry and laugh, and have stayed with me long after closing the covers. Her latest book, Indigo in the Storm, published by Riveted Press, is the next in a series of companion novels for middle-grade.
The first book, Aster’s Good, Right Things introduced us to Aster, Xavier, Indigo and Esme, the main characters in these stories. This won the Children’s Book Council Award for younger readers in 2021. Xavier in the Meantime has just been listed as a Notable in the 2023 Children’s Book Council Australia Awards and I won’t be surprised if this also takes out the win.
Beginning with Aster’s tale, Xavier in the Meantime followed, giving us insight into Xavier’s history, thoughts, feelings and experiences. Indigo’s story takes us inside her head and through her journey of realising that ‘there is a crack, a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.’
As I read this book, I had a recurring thought that reading a Kate Gordon story is like listening to a song. There is a musicality to her pacing and the ways in which she draws pictures with her words. I was hooked from the opening lines and engaged completely with Indigo throughout the story, which, aside from the use of lines from one of my favourite Leonard Cohen songs, was sprinkled with Kate’s metaphor of storms for the tumbling, confusing feelings inside of Indigo, the ways in which she unleashes these emotions onto those around her, and how she swirls towards understanding herself and her place in the world.
We are the storm and the stillness.
Indigo Michael isn’t like other kids. And her mum isn’t like other mums. Life for people like them isn’t meant to have meaning- it’s just something to survive in whatever way you can. When her mum abandons her, Aster’s Aunt Noni becomes her foster parent. Suddenly Indigo has a new ‘family’- one she didn’t ask for and isn’t even sure she wants. Then she meets Liam. He graffiti’s revolutionary words across the world, words that make Indigo want to run towards something, build something, be something. For the first time in a long time, Indigo feels she has made a genuine friend, which makes it even harder when that friendship is betrayed …
This poignant companion novel to the CBCA Award winning Aster’s Good, Right Things explores the different shapes of friendship and family, and how a girl who longs for all she’s never had, learns what it means to truly belong.
Indigo is such a heartfelt character, in fact, she may very well be my favourite of this series. Whilst these are companion novels, rather than a sequential series, I really enjoyed knowing the other characters already and having insight into the ways in which they had come together to support Indigo to give her safe berth in her distressing world. I wanted to gather her up and give her a long, soft hug. Her grief and the letting go of her past is delicately written. There were moments that made me cry and moments that made me want to kick and smash things along with Indigo.
There was also plenty of humour and laugh out loud moments! I adored seeing her relationship with the other characters from her persepective and how they supported and loved her unconditionally. I also enjoyed the soap making plot and the references to sheep! The connection the young people have with their environment and how they want to change the future of the planet will connect with young readers.
The new character, Liam, is mysterious and bold and sets something alight inside of Indigo. Their connection is very important in her coming to terms with the loss of her mother and how she sees herself. I also loved her relationship with insects and that she is a noticer of the small things in the world, seeking solace from beetles and bugs, where many people would squash or spray them.
Despite the difficult subject matter, the book is filled with light and friendship and love. It leaves you feeling such hope for Indigo and all of the characters. It is easy to read, with space to breathe between lines and words, which gives pause for thought. It is not too long and therefore not overwhelming for middle-grade readers.
Suitable for children in upper primary to lower secondary school, (as well as adults), this book about the meaning of family, mental health, grief, friendship and understanding and accepting yourself, cracks and all, is highly recommended.