Bookzilla Book of the Month: Nightjar by Katya Balen

Entries are now closed

Competition type: Children's and Young Adult

Start date: 01 September 2023, 09:00

Closing date: 30 September 2023, 23:59

Age group: 9-11
Topics: Competitions

We have five copies of Nightjar by Katya Balen (with illustrations by Richard Johnson) to be won, thanks to our friends at Barrington Stoke! All you need to do is answer the question at the bottom of the page. Entries close on Saturday 30 September at midnight. All entrants must reside in the UK and full terms and conditions apply.

You can check out our competitions page for other giveaways. To find more great reads for children and young adults, download the Bookzilla book finder app.

About Nightjar

When Noah's dad visits from New York to attend Noah's Bar Mitzvah, he and Noah come across an injured Nightjar during a countryside walk. 13-year-old Noah is determined to save the bird, but his dad believes they should leave it to let nature take its course. As they argue, it becomes clear that Noah is angry about more than just the bird. He feels abandoned and misunderstood by his dad, who moved to New York City and started a family there that doesn't seem to have room for Noah. Can they find a way to truly listen to each other and find the common ground between them?

Nightjar is a tender story that offers your heart a place to rest between its pages. Kindness, openness, and connection sit at its warm centre. Beautifully written and peppered with gorgeous illustrations, this is a book for all ages to treasure.

Q&A With Katya Balen

Why did you choose a nightjar specifically to be the centre of this book?

I love writing about birds, of course, and this particular bird is fascinating. Such a strange, mysterious creature that has been very misunderstood. People used to believe it was a curse, or that it drank the blood of farm animals! It made sense for Noah to be desperate to see such a rare bird, but also it fits that the nightjar is misunderstood just as Noah feels he is by his dad.

What has been your favourite part of seeing Nightjar and its companion Birdsong come to life?

When the illustration roughs come in! Richard Johnson is a genius. I'm not a very visual person so I don't imagine scenes or characters in my head very well, but as soon as I see his drawings, I just think – yes, that's it. That's it exactly.

Does your process for writing novellas for Barrington Stoke differ from your process when you are penning longer books?

I find it very freeing to write for Barrington Stoke. There's something brilliant about keeping your writing clean and neat and clear, and also having to focus on what's really important and what you really want the reader to know. There's no room to waffle when you're writing a novella!

Do you have any tips for young writers on how to capture emotion in a story?

Focus on the small things. I mean that in terms of both the small things that can create big feelings – the tiny annoyances and injustices that are also somehow really important and emotional. But also how to express those big feelings in small ways. The beat of a heart. The tremble of a hand. A look or a thought or a movement. It doesn't all need to be shouting or fireworks or crying or hugs…

About Barrington Stoke

Based in Scotland, Barrington Stoke is an award-winning publisher with 25 years’ experience of pioneering super-readable, dyslexia-friendly fiction to help every child become a reader. From the specially designed font to the colour of the paper, accessibility is at the heart of everything they do.