"Ella on the Outside" is one of the books selected for the Read for Empathy Collection 2019. Cath is a great fan of this initiative. More details can be found here at the Empathy Lab website. Cath wrote an article on the importance of Empathy in Children's Books for Tes (formerly the Times Educational Supplement) - it can be found here.
Cath has written a blog on her Inspiration for the Book - read it here "Ella’s love for her dad is in every letter she writes"
Ella on the Outside was listed as one of the Guardian's Best New Children's Books for Summer 2018
Free Teaching Materials are now available for download from Nosy Crow - here
Ella in Sardinia
I heard from Cristina Vargiu back in early 2020 that her class would be studying my book as their class read. They would have access to the book in Italian and English. Their visit to London and planned meeting with me were of course cancelled due to Covid-19. But the reviews the students wrote have been such a delight, I wanted to share them.
First an introduction from Cristina: English Teacher, Project Coordinator School: Scuola Media “Don Palmas”, Elmas - Sardinia (Italy)
“Ella on the Outside”, by Cath Howe, is the book I chose to organise an English reading project with my Italian mother-tongue pupils, to be completed with the author meeting in London. I’m really glad to have chosen this amazing book for my project, whose aim was to keep them enthusiastic and passionate about both the English language and the message of the book itself. It has been a great success and very much worth reading. I found Ella’s story to be inspirational, and I think it was a great literary journey for my students, who saw themselves in the protagonist and learnt some important lessons about friendship and trust. Overall, they expressed their enthusiasm and greatly enjoyed the story. Unfortunately, due to Covid-19, our school trip to London was cancelled, but the availability and the kindness of the author Cath Howe has gone beyond all expectations. Although remotely, we kept in touch and she supported the students’ curiosity without reserve. She answered their questions and greeted them with her pleasant email exchanges, her postcard and book as a present. Finally, her video with her personal presentation was a wonderful conclusion to the project, encouraging my students to complete their reviews of the book. Cristina Vargiu
Here are some favourite extracts from the student reviews; a fraction of those sent. I will let them speak for themselves but their sophistication of thought and care in expression are a fantastic thing:
What I think: Back in kindergarten until the first few years of primary school, I also saw one of my friends in particular as a point of reference; I thought she was beautiful, funny, perfect, and if I had to do something I would always think about how she would have done it, because that would have been the best way. Ella reminded me of that old ‘Chiara’ in need of approval. Fortunately, the “obsession” for that girl has since gone, but it would have been a lot easier if I had read a book like this. As a child, one would read about adventures and dragons and princesses to save, and it is reassuring to discover that there are also books like “Ella on the Outside”. Concepts like thinking before acting on something which are dealt in the book are often hard for children (and teenagers, too), but the author Cath Howe is able to write something so complex in a simple and profound way, which goes straight to the heart, perhaps due to her being a teacher and being very familiar with the dynamics among her own students.
This book was very pleasant to read for two reasons: firstly, the story is captivating; secondly, the author was very good at writing the story in a simple manner, which was very clear to read even for someone like me, who is not too proficient in the English language.
It’s a flowing read, and it is captivating thanks to its moments of suspense. The characters remind us that it’s important to be ourselves, without letting others influence us.
I would advise everyone to read it, not just teenagers, because this is a book like no other, it’s a book that stimulates one’s brain to reflect upon the important values of our life, regardless of age.
The book reminded me of my own story when I was a child, when I moved from kindergarten to primary school, and in my new class I didn’t know any other boys, but with time I became friends with Matteo, one of the “coolest” students in the class, who introduced me to other classmates and friends that have completely changed my young life, teaching me to become more open and sociable. I am still friends with them today, they are people I can trust. Compared to Ella, I can say I was luckier.
It’s a book that makes you smile and can be funny, but in some parts it can also be really sad, profound and moving.
It is also a funny book, that can make you laugh, that can be touching for the reader, offering lessons that will always be useful in the course of one’s life. Ella as a character can be seen as an example, as she is quite imperfect, constantly makes wrong choices, but it is thanks to these mistakes that she is able to grow and become a better person. I was really sad about not travelling, but especially not meeting the author in person, but I have to admit that “Ella on the Outside” has been of great company in these sad and dark times,
In this book, I think the author Cath Howe wants to convey the message of never giving up and trying to always smile at life.
My favourite character is Ella because she reminds me of my own trust in people, even if I haven’t known them for a long time.
Ella is a girl with the body of a child but the heart of a lion
I liked this book because it represents the first difficulties one has to face in adolescence (a gripping story of secrets, lies and friendship) like being able to realise who are your real friends and which ones are using you like a puppet.