When you finish reading a book and say to yourself, “I wish I had written it!” you just have to tell everyone about it. That’s what I said and that’s what I’m doing after reading Lael Whitehead’s first novel for children, Kaya Stormchild.
The heroine, Kaya, is an orphan child who lives on Tangle Island in the Salish Sea. Her Grandmother, a bald eagle, has brought her up lovingly, and Kaya plays on and around the island in Moon Cove with her good friends, Tike, the otter and Kelpie, the seal. I love her friendship with them, and how the sea, another major, ever-present character, with its varying moods and colours and movements, plays its part in her life and in the development of the story.
Kaya does not attend school, but she knows many important things, including how to build a shelter, heal a wound or set a broken leg. Kaya makes some new friends, Josh, a boy from a nearby island, and “the Duchess,” a delightful older woman who runs a thrift store full of tantalizing treasures. Kaya, and Tike, along with the new friends, discover bounty hunters who are not only killing animals, but also threatening the rhythm of the seasons by stealing a magical shell, the Omrith. The tension rises as the friends search for the magic item and the people who stole it.
Nature lore, communication between animals and people, vivid descriptions and magical objects, give this novel a tone of beauty tinged with sadness as the quest is undertaken. Innocence is lost when the laughing dolphins and other creatures are forced to meet great evil as it threatens their world. But they are victorious, and the book ends in a glorious description of The Turning, which takes place at the Summer Solstice.
This is a compelling book, imbued with the awareness of our spiritual connection with the natural world. My grandchildren will definitely be receiving copies of this book.