Alya Manning is a bright nine year old girl, living with her dad in London. When her mother suddenly dies in a car accident, she becomes desperate to see her for one last time. One morning her father gives her an unusual stone cylinder, apparently left by her late mother. She tries to unfold the mystery of the stone cylinder with her best friend Ben. They travel across the universe looking for clues. Slowly, with the help of her mother’s friend Mr Benson, she connects the puzzle pieces and finds surprising information about her mum that changes her life. In her search she meets robots, ugly beasts and Enki, the Ancient Sumerian God of Earth.
The Trip to the British Museum
En Route to Nowhere
My mum once told me that every soul in our universe is governed by a planet, and once the body dies, the soul floats towards its home in the heavens. “When the time comes for me to return to my planet, you can visit me whenever you want. Just follow the stars dipped in sparkling gold dust,” she said.
She loved drawing pictures of the skies. To her, it was like speaking in another language. From stars to planets, comets to asteroids, she could understand the conversations between billions of objects in our galaxy. Sadly, I never had the chance to learn more because soon after my ninth birthday, she died in a traffic accident.
Now, I lie on my bed every evening, staring at the sky, hoping to see my mum one more time and tell her how much I miss her.
Venus was her planet, that glittering morning and evening star camouflaged by heavy clouds.
The Tiny Stone Cylinder
It was a bleak, gusty Sunday evening in September, the twenty-fifth day of the month. I was lying on my bed, staring at the sky through the large windows that covered half the ceiling. The clock read twelve minutes past nine. The stars looked ever so shiny, even through the gloomy smog that buried the entire sky. There was Capella, the sixth brightest star in the night sky, twirling at Vega with her golden, glistening sparks. Near to Vega was Deneb, a supergiant star, chattering along with Altair, furiously twinkling blue and white beams. It seemed like something alarming was about to happen.
Only a few planets were visible tonight. Mars, God of War, the bravest warrior of all, was pushing towards rebellious Uranus. Perhaps he was getting ready for his next conquest. Jupiter, King of the Gods, was racing in between them, creating an illusion of galloping amongst the stars beyond counting. They all looked very awake, as though there were millions of people living on them.
In my right hand, I was firmly holding a tiny stone cylinder that my mother had left for me before she died. Just this morning, my father had decided it was time for me to have it. After such a surprise, I should have been filled with joy, yet my face had blushed bright red with annoyance. Why had he waited so long to give it to me? It made no sense. I’d ground my teeth and given him a mirthless smile, impossible for him to ignore.
“It’s what your mum wanted,” Dad moaned, with a defensive note in his voice. “She strictly told me to give you that stone thing this morning.”
“Why today?” I asked, expecting an explanation. What was so special about 25 September 2018?
Looking for clues, I held the stone cylinder in my hands, right in front of my eyes. No use. My room was as dark as a cave, and it was impossible to see anything. Hardly surprising. There were no lights in the room except for the small bedside lamp that hadn’t worked since my last birthday. That was nearly seven months ago.
Just as I slid the cylinder upwards, under the moonlight, spears of light pushed their way through the windows on the ceiling, brightening the dimmed room. I could even see the small flakes of paint falling from the old, crumbling walls. In an instant, strange symbols appeared on the outer surface of the cylinder. They shimmered and then faded away like an illusion. It must have been the glare from the stars.
Feeling exhausted, I closed my eyes and instantly found myself travelling up to space in a tiny glass spaceship, wearing my pyjamas.
“Odd,” I muttered. Would I be able to breathe in space without a special suit? That was a question for my teacher, Mrs. Higgins.
As my spaceship broke through the Earth’s atmosphere, the murky shadows of city lights below started to get smaller and smaller with each passing second. Soon, I could only see snow-painted peaks and clear-blue waters.
My mind was stirred by memories of the past. A wonderful sense of hope that I was going to find my mum filled my heart with great joy. It was so easy to picture her face in my mind now, her dark brown curls falling across her shoulders, and her oval-shaped hazel eyes watching me, as always, with a patient smile.
Suddenly, a huge blast of light exploded like a thousand fireworks in one blow, followed by a bolt of lightning that tore across the stars. Out of nowhere, a giant robot with bizarre hands like cranes appeared, grabbing anything it could in total silence. It was as tall as the trees in our garden. A group of tiny metal creatures emerged from all around the robot, with long tails and gigantic mouths in their bellies. They moved aimlessly, in packs, all of them silent as well. Perhaps it wasn’t possible to hear sound in space? Well, there was another question for Mrs. Higgins.
Above it all, an array of never-ending tracks crossed in every direction like a massive cobweb. The tracks looked a lot like luggage conveyor belts in an airport. In slow-motion, the space robot placed a few objects onto the tracks. Everything else, it clumsily shoved into the mouths of the metal creatures that battled for the junk as if they were predators going after their prey.
As soon as the metal creatures gobbled the bulk of the space junk, they wagged their long tails to show how happy they were. Next, they passed through a circular disk surrounded by multi-coloured flashing lights with flames in the middle, which glittered from all angles. A few moments later, the metal creatures returned for more.
Could this well-lit disk be a gateway of sorts? I wondered where it led to. Maybe a planet, or even another galaxy. Maybe Venus.
Maybe it led to my mum.
Flustered, I barely noticed the giant robot was advancing towards me. After all, I could hear nothing. In a flash, the enormous junk machine clasped hold of my spaceship and heaved it onto one of the tracks above.
My heart pounded like an alarm clock. Afraid of what might happen next, I tried to get the giant robot’s attention by hammering on the glass cover of the spaceship with my fists. It didn’t work. The robot kept on coming, closer and closer.
Gathering all my breath, I screamed,
It didn’t answer.
I breathed air onto the glass to form a fog and wrote ‘Hello’ with my fingers. The robot leaned its shiny metal head gently towards me and stared blankly at the writing before the word evaporated slowly into thin air. Maybe it couldn’t read the reversed letters from the other side of the glass. Then, mirroring my actions, it blew a powerful shot of steam onto the glass and used its sharp crane fingers to scribble some words. It was a good thing the robot used backwards writing, because if not, I wouldn’t be able to read the letters.
‘MUZU ANA?’ it wrote. What language was that? French, or maybe Spanish?
Growing impatient, the robot’s rectangular eyes opened as wide as my classroom windows, then it pointed at itself and wrote ‘Aki’ on the steamy glass. I was watching its every move, but still, I had no idea what the robot was trying to tell me.
Next, the robot placed its hands on the glass and stared into my eyes. Not sure why, I moved my hands and placed them against the robot’s crane fingers. With the glass between us, I eventually met its eyes. They glowed bright orange.
Then, something strange happened. Something very unusual. The voice of the robot vibrated in my mind even though it said nothing. Aki was its name, and it wanted to know mine.
‘Alya.’ I jotted my name on the steamy glass cover and waved at the giant robot with a big smile on my face.
Clearly not interested, the robot stepped away from the spaceship and gave me a haunted look, as if something was terribly wrong. In a flash, the giant junk-box flew up and disappeared behind the dazzling stars, into a black void.
I was so happy I hadn’t ended up in the metal creature’s belly, but I had no clue where I was, or where the spaceship was taking me. An infinite number of objects drifted around, but not on the track, which seemed to have an invisible deflective shield shoving away anything that came close.
Floating steady, I watched the glittering stars dancing elegantly like swans on a lake. It was hard to tell how long I had been on this path. It must have been days, maybe even weeks, though my watch was still showing twelve minutes past nine. Maybe clocks didn’t work in space. That was a question for Mrs. Higgins too, should I ever return.
After a powerful engine roar, the capsule began to move much faster. The loudest scream escaped my mouth, echoing all around me. Engine roar? Something must have boosted my hearing; I could pick up even the quietest sound now. Maybe I had developed superpowers in space! I couldn’t wait to tell Ben, my best friend. For now, though, it was time to focus. Not far ahead, the track looked damaged. As I moved closer, I realised how grave the situation was. The path had split through the middle. Dangerous-looking bundles of cables were hanging everywhere, flickering and making quirky sounds. It would be impossible to jump over to the other side. Unless I did something quickly, the capsule would plunge through the black pit, and I would fall with it. More superpowers would be very handy now. If only I knew where to get some…
I was almost in the middle of the track, and sparks from the damaged cables were dropping onto my spaceship, melting wherever they fell. My heart was beating heavily in my chest. A loud voice echoed through the track. For sure, it was calling my name.
“Alya… Alya Manning…”
The voice became stronger the closer I got to the broken part of the track. Desperately, I searched for buttons, anything to control the ship, but there was nothing except an empty dashboard.
The ship failed to stop and fell down into the dark, dark hole. I scrunched my eyes tight and hooted with all my might, but there was no one to hear.
In a blink, I escaped the metal creatures and the giant robot, passed meteoroids, passed stars, entered the Earth’s orbit, bounced through the clouds…and then everything blacked out.
Funny, someone was still calling my name.
“Alya? Alya, are you listening? Turn the light off and go to sleep!”
To my relief, the deep, croaky voice belonged to my dad. Okay, hard to believe but I was very pleased to hear him. Even my surroundings were familiar now: my fluffy, soft bed, worn-out mahogany wardrobe, and large ceiling windows. This was my very own room. But…how strange. The lamp beside my bed, the one that hadn’t worked since my last birthday, was glowing bright yellow. In my right hand, I was tightly clasping the tiny stone cylinder. The stars were still shining through my ceiling windows, and the clock on the wall read just thirteen minutes past nine.
About the author
I am Yasemin Allsop, author, teacher, student, mother, a bit of everything really. I love reading, writing, walking, history, astronomy, astrology and technology. I worked as a primary school teacher, music and computing coordinator in inner city London schools for 10 years. Currently I am employed as a lecturer in education. I am in love with dogs and I have a beautiful rottweiler girl called Shadow.
Dr Yasemin Allsop MBE
Alya the Pathmaker is a wonderful children’s book full of excitement and adventure. It is about a nine year old girl who lives with her dad in London. One morning, her dad gives her a stone cylinder that belonged to her late mother. That moment changes Alya’s life as she and her best friend, Ben, embark on a quest to find the mystery behind the stone cylinder. The storyline is gripping and beautifully woven into Alya’s feeling about the loss of her mother. As Alya and Ben travel across the universe, they explore space, learn codes and meet robots and beasts. I can’t wait for the next book!
Alya the Pathmaker by Yasemin Allsop is an adventure book about nine year old Alya. When she gets given a magical stone cylinder she starts to find out more about her mother who died in a car accident when she was little. She finds out that she was a pathmaker and learns to become one too. I would recommend this book for 7-13 year olds who love to read books about adventure, a bit of mystery and sci-fi. If you get it you’ll enjoy reading it!
An immensely clever book; a welcoming and friendly story mixed with forward thinking technical elements. It is awesome to see a young girl making strides in technology – computers and maths and detective stories are all too commonly a boys world but this story makes it appealing to the future young female leaders of the field. There is so much to take from this book I highly recommend a read!
What a delightful read this book is! “Alya the Pathmaker” will inspire young (and not so young!) readers in many different ways. I work closely with Y7 children and I know that Yasemin’s approach to scifi/fantasy will engage her readers’ emotional intelligence as well as their intellectual curiosity and will open new ways of looking at the world. Imagine being given a mysterious stone cylinder by your mum – who is no longer alive – and being followed around by not so nice adults who clearly have their own agenda. Alya has to work out herself how to open new pathways into different worlds and cultures. She is curious, resilient and knows the value of friendship. In my school I teach an “Introduction to Language” course and we send the students to the British Museum every year to find out about the history of writing systems and alphabets. Exploring cuneiform is always very stimulating for them. I know that Yasemin is writing a sequel…. Will the stone cylinder let Alya unravel all the secrets and, most importantly, will she see her mum again? I can’t wait.