Kid’s Book Review: Away With Words

Kid’s Book Review: Away With Words

About the Book

Away With Words is an uplifting and inspiring story about an eleven-year-old girl called Gala who moves from Spain to Scotland because her dad’s partner lives in Fortrose. Gala starts a new school, lives in a new house and must learn a new and strange language.

At school she befriends Natalie, a girl with selective mutism, and together they start working on poems to send to people who are having a tough time.

But when someone else sends out mean messages in poem form Gala and Natalie are blamed, leaving them with no choice but to figure out who has sent the unkind poems so their names can be cleared!

Please scroll down to find out what 13-year old Kirsten thought of this book which we recommend for readers aged 11-14 years.

Sophie’s Favourite Kids’ & YA books in translation

Away With Words is about an 11-year-old girl, Gala, who moves from Spain to Scotland and initially struggles with learning English. Living in Spain myself, one thing that strikes me whenever I go into bookshops here is how many titles have been translated, particularly from English – Gala would likely have read some stories set in Britain before she moved there, whereas there aren’t so many Spanish novels that are familiar to young UK readers. In 2018, for example, translations made up 21% of books published in Spain. By contrast, they accounted for just 5.63% of fiction published in the UK in the same year.

Fortunately that percentage seems to be increasing, but I’d still love to see more books make it into English from other languages, particularly those by authors outside Europe who are traditionally less represented. Literature can teach us so much about the world, and for children and young people in particular I think the chance to discover stories from other cultures could be really impactful. In the meantime, here are a few of my favourite kids’ and YA book to have been translated into English from other languages which I hope inspires you to try them:

1. Still Stuck by Shinsuke Yoshitaki. A very funny picture book about a little boy who gets his head stuck in his shirt and, when he can’t get it off, wonders if he’ll have to live the rest of his life this way. I’ve scoured the internet trying to find out who English translator is but they don’t seem to be credited anywhere – apologies!

2. Watermelon Madness by Taghreed Najjar, illustrated by Maya Fidawi. A fun and colourful picture book from Palestinian-Jordanian author Taghreed Najjar, about a little girl who loves watermelon and won’t eat anything else. Translated from Arabic by Michelle and Tameem Hartman.

3. The Children of Noisy Village by Astrid Lindgren. Lindgren’s best creation is of course Pippi Longstocking, but when I was younger my favourite of her books were the Noisy Children series. They follow the adventures of six children who live in three neighbouring houses and their escapades in the Swedish countryside. Translated from Swedish by Susan Beard.

4. Piglettes by Clémentine Beauvais. A brilliant teen novel about three young girls who are voted the ugliest girls in their school in a cruel online poll, and who later become semi-famous when they set off biking across France to gatecrash the garden party at the Élysée Palace. Unusually (and very impressively!), Beauvais translated the novel from French to English herself.

5. Chain Mail by Hiroshi Ishizaki. This Japanese teen novel is inspired by the creepy chain mail emails that used to haunt people’s inboxes in the 90s and early 2000s, telling the story of four Tokyo teenagers who are brought together by strange messages arriving on their phones. Translated from Japanese by Richard Kim.

6. A Winter’s Promise by Christelle Dabos. At atmospheric fantasy novel following Ophelia, a young girl who can read objects’ history by touching them, as she’s forced into an arranged marriage with a member of another powerful family. It’s the first part of a quartet named The Mirror Visitor. Translated from French by Hildegarde Serle.

7. Almond by Won-pyung Sohn. A big hit in Korea, this is about a teenage boy born with a condition called alexithymia, which makes it hard for him to feel certain emotions and struggles to know what he’s “supposed” to feel when an incident upturns his life. Translated from Korean by Sandy Joosun Lee.

8. Just Like Tomorrow by Faïza Guène. This coming-of-age novel tells the story of Doria, a French-Moroccan teenage girl living on the outskirts of Paris – a quick, funny read with a brilliant narrative voice. Translated from French by Sarah Adams.

Sophie Cameron is a YA and MG author from the Scottish Highlands. She studied French and Comparative Literature at the University of Edinburgh and has a Postgraduate Certificate in Creative Writing from Newcastle University. She is the author of a number of books including Our Sister Again, which is also published by Little Tiger Press.


Book Review

I felt as if I would look down at the floor and see a stream of words bunching around my feet

This book is wonderful. I really enjoyed this book because of the author’s rich imagination and her brilliantly descriptive use of language.

In Gala’s world, when someone says something, the physical words fall out of their mouth. People’s words never look the same – different fonts, or colours depending on moods, or sizes. The description of the flow of words was incredible; I felt as if I would look down at the floor and see a stream of words bunching around my feet. It was also strange because the world was so similar to our world, but yet so completely dystopian.

The friendship between some of the characters is beautiful – the way that Natalie and Gala got on without words. Both girls found it tricky to converse with one another, Gala because it was a tricky language and Natalie because it made her feel incredibly anxious, but they managed to communicate through actions and body language and facial expressions. It was both encouraging and amazing. I was also impressed by Gala’s incredible determination to learn a new language so she could communicate with English-speaking people.

One of the things other things I found compelling about the book was getting to know a character with selective mutism. The book has given me a really good insight into the complexities of other peoples’ experiences.



If you would would like to buy a copy of the book we invite you to order it from your local independent book shop.

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Alternatively, we suggest that you visit your local library and request to borrow a copy from a friendly librarian.

Whichever you choose we hope you enjoy being part of your unique reading community – happy reading everyone!

Reviewer Profile

  • Name: Kirsten
  • Age: 13 years
  • Likes: swimming , netball and writing stories
  • Dislikes: cream (on its own) and unkindness
  • Favourite Book: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • Favourite Song: Underdog by Alicia Keys
  • Favourite Film: Hunt for the Wilder People