Genre: Middle-Grade Contemporary, Grief
Published: Hachette Childrens Books, July 2022
My Rating: 4.5/5 stars
"Your stories are part of me, but I store more of you inside of me…"
If you have been with me for a while now, you know my continuous quest and passion for books that deal with grief, illness, disability and body, especially within the children’s and YA-genre. Because(say it with me guys:) representation matters, especially to young readers! So if you’re going to pitch a book to me as “an illustrated story for fans of Onward and A Monster Calls, about grief and love for readers 9+”, you bet your bottom dollar I’m going to be all over that! I’m happy to say: this is a great one!
12-year-old Sadé has always loved words and stories, especially the ones she crafted with her mum, of an imaginary world filled with candy-floss lilac skies and magical beasts. That all changes when Sadé’s mum passes away, and part of the colour seems drained from her world, making place for sad thoughts and shadowy beasts. With her dad lacking the words to talk about their grief, and the growing anxiety and pressure she feels at school, Sadé soon finds these Shadows spilling into the real world.
With the help of an online grief-support-group, as well as her caring friends, Sadé must find her place and her voice back, in order to banish the Shadow Beasts for good.
Sadé’s journey goes above and beyond in terms of representation of important topic to young readers; it’s a tale of grief over the loss of a parent, family, Nigerian-British culture, diverse friendships, bullying and more. It’s packed to the brim with memorable characters, with Sadé herself topping that list. Her imaginative mind and her distinct voice (both in her poetry as well as her regular narrative) make being inside her head a bitter-sweet joy. Having lost my mum at a similar age, and finding solace in poetry and stories, I deeply related to her, and wished I’d had a character like this at the time I was her age. Sadé’s spunk and humour, as well as the lively cast of warm friends and family that surround her, create a balance and keep the story from ever feeling too heavy. A great example of this is in the way the grief-counselling-group is presented. I was a little hesitant when it was introduced, but it’s a great way of discussing the heavy topics in short bits, interspliced with some much needed humour of strange user-names and the struggles of “online-school” that many a modern middle-schooler will be used to.
Although it’s is own thing entirely, this story was more “Onward” than “A Monster Calls”. Although one of my favourite books of all time, the latter left me a sobbing mess on the floor. Onward however left me with a smile on my face: a heartfelt, but fun journey all together. That’s how I felt after finishing Sadé and her Shadow Beasts.
With a debut like this, and a passion for diverse childrens- and YA-literature that speaks from her bio, I can’t wait for Rachel Faturoti’s next release, which is only a few short months away. In the meantime I’m happy to have another book to add to the list of middle-grade grief-fiction that I can wholeheartedly recommend.
Many thanks to Hachette Childrens Books for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Sadé and her Shadow Beasts will be out in stores in early July 2022. Add this book on Goodreads here.