We are absolutely delighted to have Jasbinder Bilan joining the festival this year. Jasbinder will be introducing her brand new first novel, Asha and the Spirit Bird.

Published by Chicken House just a couple of months ago this book has already had a fantastic reception. It’s just been named by the Guardian as one of the best books of 2019 so far.

We can’t wait to meet Jasbinder. In the meantime, here’s a little bit about her. According to family stories, Jasbinder was born in a stable close to the foothills of the Himalayas. Until she was a year and a half, she lived on a farm inhabited by a grumpy camel and a monkey called Oma.

Jasbinder is a graduate of the Bath Spa University MA in Writing for Young People. It was there that the seeds of her story were nurtured but it was the incredible bond with her grandmother, which was the inspiration for Asha And The Spirit Bird.

She now lives with her husband, two teenage boys and dog Enzo in a man pad and splits her time between teaching and writing.

And if you’d like a taste of what the book is all about, check out the Guardian review:

Can you judge a book by its cover? Often, in children’s fiction. Set in the foothills of the Himalayas, Asha and the Spirit Bird (Chicken House) – the debut from Jasbinder Bilan, winner of her publisher’s children’s fiction competition in 2017 – hits you with lush tropical artwork: namaste, illustrator Aitch and designer Helen Crawford-White.

The words do justice to the pictures. If one of the gifts of fiction is to proffer unfamiliar footwear in which to walk a while, Bilan’s story is an eye-opening adventure, with one sandalled foot in atmospheric realism and a toe-hold in the mythical. To thwart the debt collector, plucky young Asha has to find her father, missing in the faraway city. As her desperation turns to real danger (policemen, blizzards, wolves) help is on hand in the form of the powerful lamagaia bird – known less atmospherically as the bearded vulture – and a green-eyed tiger. Could these be the spirits of Asha’s ancestors?

Sounds great, doesn’t it? We can’t wait to meet Jasbinder at the festival and join in with her Himalayan inspired workshop. You can find out more about Asha’s wild adventures and create your very own spirit bird. Great for children aged 8 and over.