When I was writing The Girl Who Lost Her Shadow, I was thinking a lot about communication and about how hard it is sometimes to reach out to someone you care about; how you’re not sure what the right words are or how you can say them.
In this story, when Gail’s older sister, Kay, becomes depressed, Gail doesn’t understand what is happening. The two sisters used to do everything together – they dreamed of being marine biologists and swam in the sea whenever they could. And when Kay becomes sad and distant and won’t swim with Gail anymore, Gail feels abandoned and is angry with her sister.
When Kay’s shadow disappears, Gail chases it across the island where they live, certain that if she finds it and brings it home, everything will go back to how it was before. On her journey, Gail befriends an orange-haired girl called Mhirran.
Mhirran tells Gail that she can speak Dolphin and that she talks to the stalagmites in Morse code. She can mimic bird calls and wave her arms in semaphore. She describes whistling languages and how spiders can communicate through their webs, like playing guitar strings. She talks about the ways elephants can feel the warning call of other elephants through the ground and how whales speak to each other through miles and miles of cold water.
At first, Gail dismisses Mhirran’s constant chatter. She says that Mhirran talks all the time but never says anything real. But as she begins to listen more closely to her new friend, Gail draws strength from learning how different creatures communicate. She decides that there’s lots of different ways to reach out to her sister, and that even if sometimes she can’t find the right words, it’s being there for Kay that really matters.
During my research for this book, I discovered lots of ways creatures and humans communicate that I hadn't known about before. Did you know that green monkeys have different alarm calls for leopards and snakes? Or that honeybees communicate through a waggle dance?
Mhirran is very good at Morse Code. Have you ever used it before? If not, now is the time to learn... Tap out the rhythm below and decode it to discover what uniquely Scottish creature Gail meets in the forest!
You can download the Morse Code activity in this worksheet below: