Free delivery on all orders over £10
Schools can pay by invoice by setting up an account at checkout.
Start a wish list for your school or nursery.


Published: 13 May 2021

Paperback / softback, 304 pages

Recommended for age 9+

By Tim Tilley

Published by Usborne Publishing Ltd

Regular price
Sale price
Regular price
RRP £7.99
Unit price

 Wick has always lived in the dark and dreadful Harklights Match Factory and Orphanage, working tirelessly for greedy Old Ma Bogey. He only dreams of escaping, until one day a bird drops something impossible and magical at his feet - a tiny baby in an acorn cradle... As midnight chimes, Wick is visited by the Hobs, miniature protectors of the forest.

Grateful for the kindness shown to their stolen child, they offer Wick the chance of a lifetime - escape from Harklights and begin a new life with them in the wild... Winner of the Joan Aiken Future Classics Prize, Harklights is a magical story celebrating family, friendship and the natural world, filled with a message of hope for our times.

Tagged ecology , forests and plants and trees

Reviewed by Kelly Ashley

Harklights, the debut novel by author and illustrator Tim Tilley, tells the story of the power of nature and our role in maintaining and preserving the natural spaces around us.  Wick, our story’s hero, is a resident of the Harklights Orphanage.  However, the reader soon learns that there is more than meets the eye at this dark, dreary and lifeless institution.  Its sinister proprietor, Old Ma Bogey, uses the children’s labour in the home to mass-produce and package matches that are distributed across the land for profit.

One night at Harklights, an unexpected arrival ‘drops’ into the yard of the orphanage.  This delivery ends up changing Wick’s path as he is soon whisked away to the forest to live with the Hobs, pint-sized protectors of the woodland. Wick himself is trained into the role of ‘Forest Keeper’ as he is charged with the role of protector of the wood.  Will Wick find a forever family with the Hobs?  How will he find a way to protect his new friends and the forest from the mysterious and foreboding danger that looms ever closer?

The themes of nature, conservation and family weave effortlessly through the novel, with stunning illustrations to bring this organic adventure to life.  Tilley, an avid nature-lover himself, provides an accessible story for younger readers to delve into, with rich opportunities to open up discussions about how we can look after our natural world. ‘Nature has ways to repair itself.’ (page 284) The themes of growth and regeneration shine brightly in this green novel with a clear call to action for its readers, asking them to carefully consider how to conserve and preserve our natural world.

In the endpapers of the novel, Tilley challenges his readers to become ‘Forest Keepers’ themselves by getting involved with the Woodland Trust ( and the Wildlife Trust (  This would be a wonderful way to bring the story’s events to life in the classroom by challenging learners to get involved in their own Wildlife Watch.  With ideas such as making a wild corner in the garden, building woodpiles for insects and planting bee and butterfly-friendly flowers, readers can become stewards of nature, playing an active role in conservation and protection for the future.

With over 20 years of education experience in both the US and the UK, Kelly Ashley currently works as an independent consultant, providing training and support for primary schools across the UK. Kelly's particular interest in language acquisition and vocabulary development has led to the publication of her first book, Word Power: Amplifiying vocabulary instruction (2019) - full of ideas for building a language-rich environment and top tips to Power-Up explicit vocabulary instruction.