UKLA Book Group and Moonflight by Gill Lewis

Moonflight by Gill Lewis

Gill Lewis’ ‘Moonflight’ is a book of awe and wonder yet a facade for realities of our own society. The novel itself is beautifully crafted, expressing the adventure of young ratling Tilbury as he seeks to return the Cursed Night to its rightful owners. As with many a quest, Tilbury’s journey takes him to exotic lands full of intriguing characters and it is at times fraught with dangers! Tilbury represents a heroic protagonist who challenges expectations by being neither adventurous or bold but throughout the quest his intelligence, empathy and capacity to stand up for what is right are identified as key to many of his significant deeds.

As a group, we enjoyed the epic nature of the adventure first introduced through the pirate-style map at the beginning of the text. Each chapter introduced the reader to a new setting or aspect of rat history and this kept each section new and fresh. Felinport being a setting that was particularly tense and dramatic due to the danger of the White death and Felinrats! Although at times we were taken aback by the speed at which Tilbury and his group of rats sped through the settings and how the action threaded together with the overall narrative.

This text was perceived by the book as a challenging read for children. Throughout the vocabulary is ambitious and the language of inventors is woven throughout to explain the fantastical inventions that are present within the rat world- the description of the gilded cage used to house the Cursed Night being a particularly great example. Furthermore, challenging themes such as death, sexism and colonial legacies were evident throughout the narrative. We therefore felt that this story could be taken with such value for its expression of truths of reality yet could simultaneously be such an effective adventure fiction if one were to not consider those hidden meanings – thus appealing to all readers within the classroom.

For some of the book group, the beauty of this ending was how the conclusion of Tilbury’s adventure is that it was all useless – that his goal was to fulfil the prophecy by returning the diamond to its rightful owner and he failed. Except he didn’t fail. The realisation to truly succeed in returning the diamond to whoever owns it, is to remove it from the situation entirely. It can be considered that Lewis approaches the typical ‘good prevails’ story resolution in a way that conveys that this will be the case but exaggerates the cause of that. Tilbury is not the hero. Nobody is. It is when these societal norms that pollute our world are understood that everyone either succeeds in the hope of the future, or falters through chasing the past. However, it must be recognised that some of the group also identified that the conclusion of the text was relatively anti-climactic which led to some frustration that the conclusion to the quest was less spectacular!

Ideas for the classroom

  • Instruction writing of how to travel to the different settings within the text
  • Writing the text from the perspective of Nimblequick or Marfaire
  • Create own version of ‘Rattiffi’ (rat written language)
  • Quest writing- how else could the Cursed Night be found
  • DT & instructional writing- how to release the cursed night from the gilded cage
  • Writing of Sea Shanties
  • Descriptive writing of a range of settings e.g The City in the Clouds

You can find out more about Gill Lewis and her writing on her website.

About the UKLA Book Group

The UKLA book group is a group of students and lecturers who meet together to discuss contemporary Children’s Literature that has been longlisted for the UKLA Children’s Book Awards. The 6 texts chosen are from across the 3-6+, 7-10+ and non-fiction categories. From engaging with the book group, we have all had the opportunity to develop our professional and personal knowledge of recently published literature and through our discussions we have considered how the texts are constructed to support meaning making, the learning opportunities provided by the texts and why each text is an important book within the canon of Children’s Literature.


Here are the links to the other books we have read and reviewed; all of which are available in the Curriculum Centre, including Moonflight.

You’re So Amazing! by James and Lucy Catchpole

Tap! Tap! Tap! by Herve Tullet

The Hare Shaped Hole by John Dougherty

The 2024 longlist for the book awards can be found here:

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