The Ship of Cloud and Stars by Amy Raphael | Book Review

The Ship of Cloud and Stars is Amy Raphael’s new middle-grade novel that was published just a couple of days ago. An advance reader’s copy was sent to me by Orion Children’s Books in exchange for an honest review, for which I am grateful. The novel follows the incredibly inspiring story of Nico Cloud, a young girl who doesn’t find her place in her family and decides to embark, quite figuratively as she joins the crew of Anthos, on an adventure alongside her calico cat and a scientist who happens to be the only relative she feels close to. Desperately wanting to be a scientist, which was quite a problematic matter for a woman living in the early decades of the 19th century, specifically a palaeontologist, she is determined to challenge and ultimately overthrow gender roles and accidentally becomes a stowaway on a ship.

You might remember I reviewed and loved Amy Raphael’s feminist folklore fable, The Forest of Moon and Sword, so my expectations were quite high, but her new book didn’t disappoint. I found the book very educational as it revolves around science, not just one specific field, but a little bit of everything: historical facts regarding dinosaurs, mythology, geography and mostly palaeontology highlighting the importance of conserving seeds. Not only the importance of science is illustrated, but the importance of reading as primary source of knowledge as well; the main character, Nico Cloud, is an avid reader who gathers all of her information from different books she was obviously forbidden to read as girls and women were confined to chores as tutoring their brothers and embroidery. While through the themes approached the author manages to educate the reader, she also presents a feminist point of view that is rather rarely present in middle-grade novels. What’s more important is that the novel speaks clearly and the writing is easy, which means that for younger reader’s willing to learn it’s an ideal book.

Nico Cloud is not alone: she has her calico cat and quirky aunt, but she also becomes friends with the crew members who she embarks on the journey with although she isn’t supposed to be on a ship because she is … a girl. There is quiet a striking contrast between her friends, who are more concerned with actual chores than with ideas and theories, and the protagonist, a soon-to-be scientist. I feel the author outlined this contrast to emphasize how people off different perspectives and interests can unite for the greater good. Educational and inspiring, the novel is very engaging and a great book to read in class and, if I had any power in establishing reading lists, I would definitely include The Ship of Cloud and Stars as well. Despite being categorized as a middle-grade read, adults would enjoy it as well as it is a heart-warming and fast paced book with relatable, well-rounded characters.  

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Title: The Ship of Cloud and Stars
Author: Amy Raphael
Publication Date: 2022
Publisher: Orion Children’s Books
Format: Paperback|358

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