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  • Writer's pictureRussell F. Hirsch

REVIEW: Harper and the Fire Star by Cerrie Burnell

Today, it’s my pleasure to shine a light on Harper and the Fire Star, a charming middle grade fantasy and the fourth book in Cerrie Burnell’s Harper series.

harper cover

Available from Sky Pony Press and, in Canada, from Thomas Allen and Son.

Harper lives in a city of cloud, rides a scarlet umbrella through the skies, and makes music with her pet cat Midnight. Her life bursts with enchantment and adventure.In this, the fourth book of the series, Harper and her friends want to help the Wild Conductor win back his place in the magical Circus of Dreams. They put on a wondrous show, but their plan goes horribly wrong. Instead of the Wild Conductor, the ringmaster selects Harper to show off her incredible musical skills for the world to see.But once inside the circus, Harper learns of the Fire Star, a girl with her own extraordinary gift. She shines like a star whenever she hears music.And Harper may have figured out why . . .

This was a delightful read, starring an eclectic cast of kids trying to reunite lost lovers separated by a maniacal circus master. Imagine a Cirque du Soleil performance enveloped in warmth and turned into a middle grade novel. With musical raindrops, cobweb staircases, and memory-flavoured tea,  the novel positively bursts with magic. Burnell writes with elegance, without sacrificing simplicity–a key skill for an early middle grade author–and her use of alliteration gives the prose a flowing quality, almost like we are reading enchantments aloud.

I hadn’t read any of the previous Harper books, so had to play catch up with the characters and world, but the sincere charm of the story swept me up like one of the flying umbrellas Harper and her friends use to soar from cloud-to-cloud. The heroine, her companions–and of course, her cat, Midnight–are an easy crew to cheer for, full of camaraderie and warmth. In fact, given all the warmth pervading the story, I was a bit surprised there was no chance of redemption for the villainous circus master, but what goes around comes around, and he is fittingly punished for his cruelty in the end.

Illustrations by Laura Ellen Anderson spangle the pages. The pictures convey a sense of movement and joy that matches the vibrancy of the narrative. The long, slender lines make me imagine threads of magic entwining the characters–and embracing readers!


Image result for cerrie burnell

Cerrie Burnell is a presenter, actress, and writer, best known for her work in British children’s TV. She was featured in the Guardian‘s 2011 list of the one hundred most inspirational women. She divides her time between London and Brighton, England.

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Laura Ellen Anderson has been a children’s book illustrator since graduating from the University of Falmouth. She is the creator of the Evil Emperor Penguin comic and the illustrator for many books, including the Witch Wars series. She lives in the United Kingdom.


Thank you to Thomas Allen and Son for providing me with a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review!


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