Looking at the Stars – Jo Cotterill


What if the only thing you had left were the stories in your head?

Amina’s homeland has been ravaged by war, and her family is devastated . . .

The women of the family – Amina, her two sisters and their mother – have no choice but to leave their home town, along with thousands of others, and head for a refugee camp.

But there are even more challenges ahead . . .

Other books by the author

Sweet Hearts series




Interview with the author


Author Website


If you liked this, try…

Trash by Andy Mulligan

Too Much Trouble by Tom Avery

The Weight of Water by Sarah Crossan

Oranges in No Man’s Land by Elizabeth Laird

After Tomorrow by Gillian Cross


19 thoughts on “Looking at the Stars – Jo Cotterill

  1. This book was a real eye-opener for me. When I read what a refugee’s life was like, it made me feel very fortunate indeed. The author included a huge amount of detail which added to the realism and the story carried some important messages about racism and oppression. There was a fair amount of violence in this book so I’d recommend it to ages11+ but I thought it was excellent and hope there’s a sequel.

  2. I really enjoyed this book but, be warned, it’s a real tear-jerker! The characters are real and believable and, by the end of the book, I felt as though I’d got to know them as friends. The story is interesting, happy and sad and everything in between all rolled into one. My favourite parts were the stories that Amina told about the soldiers in the sky. She’s a lovely character who cares enough about others to want to give them hope. I believed in her so much, it made me want to be like her. My only issue with this book is that it ends on a cliff-hanger. We so want to know what happens to Amina’s brother because we’ve come to care about the sisters so much!

  3. Looking at the Stars is a fascinating, prodigious book bursting with adventure. For me, the characters simply leaped out of the pages! Throughout the story, the bonds between the characters grew stronger and stronger – I cannot imagine how I would have reacted in their situation. I really hope that there will be another book – perhaps telling the story of Amina’s older brother or what happened to Vivie and her mum.

  4. This book was sadder than it sounds, it made me understand what happens in the world, in lots of African and Asian countries.

  5. This book made me feel very sad, it brought home the reality of those less fortunate living in worn torn areas of the world where every day luxuries that we take for granted such as water food and shelter is scarce. The insight into life within a refugee camp was truly upsetting’.

  6. This book is great and very heart-warming; scary at times but at the end I wanted it to go on.

    Looking at The Stars is an incredible novel. It is a tale of hope and the importance of family. This book is full of detailed description and keeps you engrossed from start to finish. Jo Cotterill is an amazing author and I enjoyed Looking at The Stars immensely.

    Unfortunately it was not my type of book but it had a brilliant plot, yet very sad.

  7. This book was heart-breaking but the main characters carried on with their lives despite the tragic things that were happening around them. I didn’t expect the ending and it made me feel both happy and sad because there was a reunion and a death.
    This is definitely my favourite book so far as it has sadness, joy, pain, relief and lots more emotions rolled together into one story.

  8. I thought this book was one of the best I’ve ever read. I do hope there will be a sequel because Jo Cotterill has set one up perfectly!
    There are many reasons why you should read this book and lots of surprises, twists and turns to keep you reading. I was surprised that Amina started telling her stories so early but there’s a long break before she starts storytelling again. I would give this book the highest possible rating because its characters were interesting, the setting was brilliantly described and the story was gripping. I’d certainly recommend it.

  9. This book made me feel upset, happy and sometimes, angry. Its characters are sublime and Jo Cotterill made me really care about each one of them. I thought it was smart not to name the country in which the story is set but to leave it to the imagination. My only issue with this book is not getting a chance to view events though the mum’s eyes.

  10. I liked ‘Looking at the Stars’. I thought the characters were memorable and credible, each with their own unique personality. Instead of empathising with the characters and understanding them, the author made me feel I was really there – thinking and experiencing alongside the characters. The author used simple, well-chosen adjectives for her imagery and her lack of wordiness complemented the basic conditions in the camp.
    I thought the story was well – structured, with equal time give to the various stages: at home, on the road, at the refugee camp and the reunion. The ending was satisfying and not entirely predictable but with a definite sense of closure.

  11. I enjoyed this book because it felt so realistic. As it’s written in the first person, it was easy to feel every moment Amina was experiencing. The characters will stay with me. They are very strong and credible. The detail was extraordinary and really contributed to the setting and atmosphere without overdoing it. It was easy to picture every moment of camp life and sometimes predict problems that would arise. Wanting the characters to solve them kept me reading! The only problem I had with this book is that it finished on a cliff-hanger!

  12. I thought this was really powerful novel and gave a horribly realistic picture of living under a cruel dictatorship. I thought it was clever of the author not to name the country or religion so the reader could imagine what they might be. I felt that I had come to know each of the characters really well, even the minor ones, and really cared about them. I was surprised by the death at the end but it did make sense, once I’d thought about it and added to the realism.

  13. This is a mind-blowing story about how a creative mind can help people cope even in the most appalling situations. I was so glad when Amina’s story-telling helped the little boy recover but there were sad times like when the storm wrecked everything and some characters died. I thought Amina’s stories were wonderful – they touched me as much as the characters who came to listen to them! The plot didn’t go the way I thought it would, which made me sad but also made it more realistic. I loved the very last page when Amina started the story to find their brother with a happy ending. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

  14. I think this book is very realistic in every way – the treatment of women, the war etc. I felt emotional in some parts like the ruthless murder and when the family got separated. It was a glorious story told at a steady pace. I have never read a book like it but I loved it. It was a great pleasure reading the stories that Amina told and her resilience was admirable. I would totally recommend this book.

  15. Jo Cotterill has written an amazing tale of war, love and friendship and I think it’s going to be my favourite book. I loved the idea of the main character telling stories to give other people in the refugee camp some hope. The ending didn’t turn out quite the way I wanted it too and was sad but I think it was realistic.

  16. This is a harrowing and truthful insight into the lives of ordinary people in a controlling society. By getting into the characters, this book helped me to understand and want to find out more about the things we just view on TV from the safety of our comfortable homes.
    I thought the book was well structured and realistic but the end was really just another beginning and left me disappointed. Amina and her sisters would still be vulnerable as they had no male to make proper introductions and we never find out what happens to Ruman, though we suspect the worst. Aron’s developing relationship with both Jenna and Amina is interesting but it’s left unresolved without a sequel. For me to be entirely happy with this book, there really must be a sequel.

  17. This is an amazingly powerful and realistic book. It paints a strong picture in your mind of Amina’s country and what is happening in it. The emotion hits you from the very start and carries you to the ends of the book. I loved it!

  18. As soon as I started reading this book, I knew that it was going to be based around a war. Everything was described very realistically, especially the confrontations with the soldiers and daily life in the camp. First we meet Amina, who doesn’t like being told what to do, then Jenna who is the opposite. I noticed that neither girl was really described but I could imagine them from their personalities and I like being free to have my own pictures in my head. Personally, I thought that all the stories that Amina told were a bit of a distraction from the real story and slowed it down when I wanted to get on. Despite this and the slow start, I thought this book was amazing.

  19. Looking at the Stars is a beautiful and mesmerizing book which tells a heart-wrenching story and makes you feel a little more selfless. The story has great character development and, although there weren’t many characters, there were sufficient to back up the main character and her journey. When I found out that Amina told stories, I thought the author might use them to pad out the book. However, I was as captivated by these stories as were the listeners in the story and found that they played a large role in the book.
    Even though for the majority of the book the main characters stayed in one place, I don’t think the story dragged. Instead it helped the reader to understand the emotions the protagonist was going through more clearly and that was a key part in the novel. It was also very realistic, as in real life Amina would have probably stayed in the camp for months, if not years.
    I think this book is a story and message definitely worth reading.

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