The Good Hawk is a sprawling fantasy, set in a mythic version of Scotland, featuring killer shadows, ancient magic and a tribe of nomadic Highland bull-riders. One of the main characters is a fifteen-year-old girl called Agatha, who’s a ‘Hawk’ – a lookout – for her clan, which lives on the northernmost tip of the Isle of Skye. She’s fiercely loyal, extremely opinionated, courageous, stubborn and kind. She also has Down’s syndrome. That my series would feature a heroine with Down’s syndrome was one of the very first decisions I made about it. I’ve been surrounded by children with additional needs my whole life – from those my parents provided respite foster care for when I was young, to the many children I have entertained and taught as a playworker and teaching assistant at a holiday playscheme and various SEN schools in London. I am a firm believer that every child deserves to see themselves reflected in literature and – at the time I started writing The Good Hawk – I had never read (or even heard of) a fantasy book featuring a protagonist with Down’s syndrome.
Inclusivity is so important within all forms of media, but particularly in books for children. If children don’t recognise themselves in the books they read, what sort of impression are we giving them as a society? I wanted to create a character that the children I knew and worked with could relate to and be inspired by. I also wanted a character that challenged reader’s perceptions and encouraged people not to judge on first impressions. I am incredibly fond of Agatha; over the course of writing the three books in the Shadow Skye series, I’ve come to think of her like an old friend – someone I can always rely on to cheer me up, whenever I’m feeling low. She’s about to go on an incredible adventure to an unknown land, with unspeakable terrors lurking around every corner. I can’t wait for you to share the journey with her.
The Good Hawk, by Joseph Elliott, is published by Walker and is out now.