Review: The Night Animals

The Night Animals is a beautifully told, touching and hopeful story of family and friendship; of dealing with mental health issues; and, of finding the strength and courage to ask for help. 

Ten-year-old Nora’s mum has been signed off from her work as a paramedic due to having PTSD.  She has good days and bad days and, on the worst days, stays in bed and leaves Nora notes telling her to stay with a friend.  Nora has begun to see the shimmering ghost animals which used to visit her when she was younger.  Could these animals help her find a path away from her loneliness and isolation? Could they hold the key to helping her find the courage and strength to ask for, and accept, the help she and her mother need?  Could they take her back to her past and into a more hopeful future?

Chasing a ghost fox across the school playground, Nora is pulled beneath the branches of a cherry tree by Kwame who is hiding from a bully.  Kwame lives close to Nora and spends a lot of his time with his Grandad both to help him and to get away from his noisy, boisterous siblings.  Nora tries to push Kwame’s friendship away, but he proves himself to be a kind-hearted, determined and supportive friend who can see that Nora needs help even when she can’t see this herself. 

Together, they find themselves on an incredible adventure on the trail of a ghost fox, hare, raven and otter, an adventure that opens a path for Nora to find the help her family needs.

Nora is an incredibly sympathetic young girl who is a young carer for her mother who is struggling with PTSD.  The two have been a close unit since her parents’ divorce and feel that they are fine on their own, hiding the truth of their situation from others.  Both have been visited by ghosts:  her mother by the ghosts of memories from trauma witnessed in her role as a paramedic and Nora by shimmering rainbow ghost animals that had also visited her in her past.  Despite her own feelings of loss, grief, loneliness and anger, she shows compassion, support and kindness towards others.  I loved how Nora opened herself up to the ghost animals, learned to be honest with herself through what she learned from them and followed them into an adventure which brought her family the help they needed. 

I think this incredible story is a wonderful opportunity to open discussion in class about young carers, mental health issues, bullying and is one that will encourage empathy.

The cover and internal illustrations are stunning and bring to life the gorgeous rainbow ghost animals that take Nora on such an important journey.

This is a heartfelt and beautifully told, empathetic story of finding the strength to face problems, of recognising when everything is not fine and having the courage to ask for and accept help from others.  Highly recommended for readers of 9+.

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