Gill Lewis

The Closest Thing to Flying

Two worlds come together in a gripping story of friendship, courage and freedom

When Eritrean refugee Samira discovers a diary written by Hen, a girl living over 100 years ago, she finds the friend she has been desperately seeking.

A friend who brings not just comfort, but inspiration to be brave, to fight for her place in the world, and maybe even to uncover the secrets of her own past.



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Maggie Helena Romanes

This book is extraordinary. I think this because it teaches you not to judge a book by its cover. I believe this because Holly and Chloe tell Sermira not to be friends with Patrick. As he was a nerd and everyone calls him bird boy. But when he drops his book and Sermira returns it to him. She learns that he is a nice boy and loves bikes. This book is all about worldwide issues like bulling , domestic violence , women’s rights and immigration. I love how Hen and Sermira are 100 years apart but are having the same… Read more »

Gabriella, Larchwood Primary School

I thought this book was very inspirational and I really enjoyed reading it. I definitely recommend this book and I think others would really love reading it too.

Eva Leslie, Haberdashers Askes Girls School

This book is very good and I would recommend it. It really made me think about the situation some people are in and how a tiny amount of people would try to take advantage of the unfamiliarity some people have to this country if they are, for example, a refugee. I also enjoy pay the way it is written, how we are learning about Hen and her life at the same time Samira is. I think the way Jill Lewis concludes the story is very good especially the last line ‘life is such a grand adventure. We must remember to… Read more »

Emily H /Sweyne Park School

The Closest Thing to Flying, is a great book linking the past with the present creating a book about courage and friendship. Semira, a refugee from Eritrean, is a bold character and reading a diary belonging to a girl 100 years ago helps her to get through things in her life now. I think that it is an intriguing book with easy readability, It grabs you in at the begging and keeps you engaged and wanting to read more until the end. People may think that the switch in the book from now and a hundred years ago may confuse… Read more »

Natalie , Sweyne Park School

The book ‘The Closet Thing to Flying ‘is about a girl called Semira, who is a refugee and she is living with her mama and a horrible man. She then discovers a diary from years ago and that diary and the people inside it helps Semira carry on with her tough life and eventually stand up to the horrible man living with them. I think this book was very easy to read, it has big text / spaces and short chapters so if you only have five minutes you can quickly read a chapter without stopping half way through. It… Read more »

Ella Martin, Sweyne Park school

This book was intriguing as it brought the past and the present together allowing the reader to make connects between their life and one of the past. The book successfully reveals an insight to the way refugees like Samira struggle with daily life as the lack of security and chance of danger have left her scarred yet, the unexpected friendship that develops between her and Hen, through the form of the diary provides her with the comfort that she so desperately needs. Despite giving comfort, Hen’s powerful story enables her to escape from her reality but , sparks bravery into… Read more »

Apryl Hammett

Review from Matilde at New Hall School My book review is on The Closest Thing To Flying. The thing that I like about the start and end is that they both draw you in and even at the end it leaves you asking questions you wouldn’t have before. I enjoyed this writing style as it takes you back in time in some places and I enjoyed this feeling when I felt like I had been taken back in time along with the book. This book made me feel all sorts of emotions as I read more and more. At some… Read more »

Apryl Hammett

Review by Eloise Keddie The Closest Thing to Flying is about a girl called Semira and her mother. They are refugees from a country in Africa and live with a person called Robel who doesn’t let them do a lot of things and sometimes makes Semira go to school without a lunch. Then, Semira finds a diary written by a girl called Hen a century before. It talks about Hen’s cousin and her friends who set up the RSPB because they want women to stop wearing hats with stuffed birds. Semira reads the diary to her mother and it gives… Read more »

Armaan KEGS

This book was very fascinating for me. I would definitely recommend this book to one of my piers as at the beginning it is very sad. I found it sad because Samira’s mother was in-a-way being enslaved by Robel. He kept telling them how he was their only hope for survival when they left Eritrea. Soon in the story Samira makes a friend, Patrick, who helps her along the story and she helps him. As the story goes on Samira learns more about her past and I feel that this is very uplifting. At the end Gill Lewis leaves the… Read more »

Apryl Hammett

Xenia Williams – New Hall School I just read “The Closest Thing to Flying” and this was a hit! It is about a girl called Semira who buys a worn out hat. When she is back home she finds out that there is a diary inside in hat box. The diary turned out to be from the Victorian times and was written by a girl named Henrietta (Hen for short). When she reads this diary she gains inspiration from the diary and Henrietta’s story. Semira begins to have the courage to stand up to people she struggles with and the… Read more »

Auden, Dilkes Academy

My god I love this book! It’s addictive! It’s about Semira and a hat with a diary in the hat box,written a hundred years ago. Semira finds a friend in the diary,keeping her mind off being an immigrant. I love the tension about the father and finding him.And the diary is action packed too! People who love adventurous books from two people’s perspective.You should try it!

PRANEEL @ Dilkes Academy

THIS BOOK WAS AMAZING! The closest thing to flying is one of the best books I have read in a while. This book is the home of adventure, action and belonging. The book is about a girl called Semira who finds a hat with a green bird on top at a store, not knowing what adventure she will go through after finding a Victorian diary written by a girl called Hen (Henrietta). I would definitely recommend this book to those who love adventure; however I don’t think it will be too interesting to readers who are at least 6 years… Read more »

Grace Radwinter

Semira is a young refugee, originally from Eritrea, she moved when she was a little girl to England where her life was taken over by a mean man named Robel.Where Semira and her mum were mistreated badly with no way of stopping it.Luckily, Semira made a friend -Patrick- who had a love for birds and bikes but Robel and her mum had no idea. One day she discovers a diary written by a girl living over 100 years ago called Hen and immediately realises she is the friend she has wanted and needed to increase her confidence. Hen is very… Read more »

Eve Atkinson

I really enjoyed reading this book, and felt very sad when it was finally over! Semira is a really inspirational character, and you really followed her ups and downs throughout the whole book. The part that really got me was the last line of the book where it said, “Life is such a grand adventure. We must remember to live every moment and enjoy the glory of the ride.” With amazing books like these, it is always increasingly hard to put them down- you can never truly wait to find out what happens next! Gill Lewis has well and truly… Read more »

Angee Haberdasher’s Aske’s School for Girls

This is a book I will always remember. It has many messages and facts inside which taught me many things. One message it taught me is that you should never judge a person by their appearance or their abilities. This book is all about the world now and the world now. It contained issues like bullying in schools, violence, migration and women’s right to do the things they want. I have thoroughly enjoyed this book and recommends it.

Eden, Larchwood Primary School

I liked this book because it taught a good lesson that we can apply in our lives, we don’t have to fit in at school like Sermira didn’t. It can inspire lots of people like it did to me. I recommend it to 10-13 year olds as they get used to a new school and make new friends when they move ahead to Seniors like Sermira did in the book. I liked this book a lot.


I really liked this book as not only is the plot, but the lessons taught by this book are great and that, no matter your reason, you have to be brave and keep going. In my opinion, this is a really inspirational book and I would recommend it for all ages.The best part of the book is how the diary is written and how it sounds so lifelike and realistic, that you feel engrossed in wanting to read more and more.

Great Baddow High School Frankie

this book was good as it was about a girl who tried to solve her problems and escapes from her ‘dad’ with her mum. She was inspired by a book that was written over 100 years ago and that made her believe in herself. it also made her see how fun cycling was as her dad was cyclist that disappeared when she was a baby.

Eloise Great Baddow High School

This book was very good and I would definitely recommend it anyone who likes to read but not extremely long books. Although it was mostly happy there were some really sad parts which made it an exciting book to read. This was also a very easy book to follow , this made it really nice to read even for people who find it harder to read!

Lynne Wheater

Liana – St Cedd’s School
A really heart-gripping novel, The Closest Thing To Flying is the story about refugee, Semira and her “friend on paper” Hen. Semira finds Hen’s diary in a hat with a bird she recognises perched on it. Due to this, she buys the tattered hat. Both girls share a passion: cycling and they participate in this with their best friends Patrick the bird nerd and rebel Kitty. Personally my favourite character is Kitty because she is resilient and carefree. Overall this book is a must-read and it has encouraged me to cycle more (when I can.)

kamila montgomery junior school

The closest thing to flying is a fantastic book which shows a life of a modern life and a Victorian girl’s life called Henrietta Hen for short. I would recommend this book to any girl who has a cruel stepdad [in their opinion]

esmee montgomery junior school

To gill Lewis this is a really good book! i really like how you have done a letter in the book.i like how |Samira is trying to go against Robel (her fake dad)how many other book’s have you written? How long have you been writing for? I liked how after Samira and Patrick got to experience going down the hill.

Luigi Callegari

My first thoughts were immediately stopped. I’m still thinking, how on earth did a human being write such an amazing book! It was not at all like any other books I have read! And trust me I have read a lot!

Xindy (St Helena)

Frankie. Great Baddow High School.

Samira is a refugee who lives with her mother and a guy named Robel who her mother has to pretend to be married to so she doesn’t get told to leave the country. She had to go to a new school where she met two new girls called Chloe and Hollie. There was this one kid who everyone thought was weird. His nickname was bird boy but his name was Patrick. Samira became good friends with him and knew his family. She stood up to his bullies and was always there for him. At the start, Samira goes into a… Read more »


The Closest Thing To Flying by Gill Lewis is a well-written story about when a young girl called Semira who finds an 100 year old diary in a hidden compartment, which then helps her to face up to the evil Robel. The characters were really well thought about and very life-like. Also the plot was well executed. It sounds like it should be a great book and to people who like a nice slow and calm book it would be; whereas I prefer fast pace action books with something happening on every page so this book sadly did not entice… Read more »


This book gives courage to do what is right . This book is good when you are going through hard times . The link between Semira and Hen is very strong and we should remember that we not along in this world. I would recommend this book for age 11- 13 . This informs us that things are happening in the world that young people don’t see.

Emma B Hockerill Anglo European College

This book is captivating and really hooks you in. Once you have been pulled in, its practically impossible to stop reading without wondering what will happen to Hen and Samira and if their lives are truly connected. It also hides a message beneath all of the creative, inspiring words. It shows not to judge a book by the cover- everyone thought that Patrick was a nerd, was bullied for a reason and only interested in birds, but underneath his appearance, he’s kind friendly boy that everyone loves! the book represents the issues and problems all around the world and that… Read more »

Anna SPS

I enjoyed this book because I like it’s story line and all it’s characters. The story line was about two people one of these people was in the past writing in a diary. On the other hand, the second person was in the present reading her diary,she was called Semira and she had a tough life because she was a refuge and had to live with people she did not like. . I loved the fact that the girls were fighting for women’s rights. This book was very easy to read because it had a big space between words and… Read more »

arjun, KEGS

The plotline was quite deep and enjoyable and taught to stand up for what is right and to not judge anyone before you know more. The only downside was that it didn’t have much to do with flying as the plotline was a lot different. the best part was that her dad was a professional cyclist and that the two girls yet so distant in time were both trying to achieve the same. it shows that no matter what time era you are in, you can always be new at something .

Ritvik R.Y King Edward XI Grammar School

When I read the blurb of the book I wasnt very interested in it, but when i read the book i realised that it was in fact a very interesting book. this book taught me not to judge a book by its cover and to try and ride a bicycle.

the plot includes a girl called Samirah who discovers a 100 year old diary. The diary was written by Hen who faced similar problems to Samirah, but they both have the same love and that is to ride bicycles.

Paarth, Kegs

I love this book and the contrast between Semira and Hen. It is a very different book to those I would normally read but it was still great and the balance of sadness, comedy and anger was perfect. Wonderful plot and gripping story that will teach all readers to never give up. Thank you Gill Lewis

Yingzhi, Helena Romanes

The closest thing to flying
Helena Romanes
This book is about a girl called Sermira who finds a book in an old hat. She starts reading the book and realises that the girl in the diary (Hen) have similar feelings and problem even though they are 100 years apart. This book is about women’s rights,bullying and immagration. I would highly recommend this book.

Jakki Styles

ANNA from St Peter’s This fascinating story tells the tale of a young girl by the by name of Semira, who has already faced many challenges as she is a refugee. She has learned that she must stand up for herself and her mother. When she discovers a diary, hidden away in a box, that belongs to a tatty old hat which she bought at the market, Semira finds the friend she has always been needing. This friend helps her to have courage and be brave. This diary has already changed one girl’s life, can it change hers? I recommend… Read more »

Jakki Styles

CHLOE from St Peter’s
The Closest thing to Flying is about a modern day refugee who is being held against her will by a man called Robel. But when Semira finds a 100 year old diary written by a girl called Henrietta, who has the same troubles as Semira, her life changes forever. Can she win back her rights?
I would recommend this book to 9-12 year old girls who are interested in human rights, equality and refugees.
I believe this books can really INSPIRE girls to believe in themselves and learn about important things

Jakki Styles

Charlotte from St Peter’s
When Semira discovers a diary written by Hen, a girl living over 100 years ago, she finds the friend she has been desperately seeking. A friend who reaches through time to bring not only comfort but inspiration to be brave.
My favourite part was when Semira rode the bike and said it almost felt like flying because she was going s fast. I liked all of it – there was nothing I didn’t like!
My favourite character was Semira because she is very adventurous and eventually believes in herself. I give this book 5 thumbs up.

Freya montgomery junior school

I loved this book because it was fun and it was magical like a diary wrote in 1891 and called Semira her dearest friend when she doesn’t actually know who she is .Also i loved how for the diary is was in a different font .

Arabella montgomery junior school

I really enjoyed reading all about Semira the diary and henrietta and how there lives are connected. I LOVED it.

Siobhan HAEC

This book is one of my favorite books I have ever read. The author managed to relate everything in the book with me. Whatever happened to Semira, I could relate to. I would recommend this book to ages 11 and up. This is because the theme is quite mature and so is the language. The references the author makes are probably this younger kids would not understand.


An amazing journey -This book made me happy,sad and many more emotions . The closest thing to flying is an epistolary story which makes it even more tense .A young girl having to fight for her place in the world finds a diary ….The way that Gill wrote this book is unique and original at the same time . Through out this book i was crying with sadness and happiness . This book is truly heart warming and i feel that anyone would enjoy it .

Harry - HAEC

The closest thing to flying is an adventure story and it is about a girl who is called Semira. She is living with her mum in a house controlled by a bad person called Robel. He is always taking Semira’s and her mums food and making her mum do jobs for money even though he takes it all. At the start of the story, semira buys a hatbox that contains a hat with a green bird on the top and a diary that was written over 100 years ago. the whole story is told through the diary and 1st person… Read more »

Jodie HAEC

I really enjoyed reading the closest thing to flying, I liked the structure of the story and how far Samira has come to fight for her place in the world. My favourite part of the story is when Samira finds Hens diary and how she forms a strong bond with a girl she has never met and lived 100 years before her and how Hens diary helps her find secrets about herself. I also liked the way Gill Lewis left the story on a cliff hanger because it makes you reflect on what you think happens. Overall i think i… Read more »

esme H haec

this book is great has has lots of information about how we should never take life for granted because we dont know what is in store for us when we move on in life. we can connect with our characters because we know what they have been through. the book is written to grip you and keep you reading and it really does that.

jac HAEC

when i first started reading the closet thing to flying it was bit boring but as soon as Sameria had the argument Robel the book rocketed in suspense and made you want to read on and on and Gill Lewis wrote it in a way way in which was very descriptive. i felt the ending was well as the plot would have been to familiar to other stories. i also liked the fact that Sameria felt she was connected to Hens diary and that she never gave up hope.
i would recommend this to 9 to 12 year-old’s

jessica haec

The closest thing to flying is about a young girl called Samira who has escaped Eritrea. I like this book as it shows that you are not alone and you should always stick up for yourself. it is written using epistolary. this is when something is written though letters or diary entries. follow Samira and Hen go through similar things yet they are centuries apart. I find this book and the message behind it important yet upsetting as it shows how refugees used to be treated over a century ago. i find it upsetting as it is still happening today.… Read more »

Habib.a HAEC

This book may not be may not be my favourite but it is one I like. I like this not only about Semira and Hen but there relationship is very effective and sympathetic
Feedback: What I think needs to be improved is at the end were the is a cliffhanger. I think it needs improving because you don’t what will happen and it doesn’t flow with the book in my opinion. Recommendation: I would recommended this book for age 9- 12 because you will change school and also leave your friends behind for a different life.
This has everything!


The closest thing to flying is a nice interesting book about two girls who never met before, but still feel so close. It’s a nice, inspirational book and it’s really realistic with lots of real-life situations. It almost gets emotional but really it depends on on who you are. Even though you might start with no understanding and think it’s boring, it gets better later on and very interesting.

Olivia C HAEC

I thought that the closest thing to flying was an inspiring and interesting book. I really thought that the way Hen gave Semira and her mother the courage to run away showed us how we should aim to live and help others. I certainly felt emotionally connected to Semira and Hen throughout the book as they demonstrated how refugees were previously treated and how that has been changed in the present day, but unfortunately this still goes on in other countries. I think that the way Gill Lewis wrote the story through epistolary especially helped me to connect and engage… Read more »

Abbie HAEC

I think that this story is great because I like the way it was written, I like the characters and their emotions, I like the setting but if I was Gill Lewis then I would make it a bit more exciting because sometimes its not that exciting . If I would rate this out of 5 then I would rate it a 3 because like I said in some parts of the book it wasn’t exciting.

Charlie haec

i did not really enjoy the closet thing to flying as it was sort of boring in parts but Gill Lewis the author did include very good bits where she displayed a lot of feelings in the characters so it felt like your where there listening to them [Semira and hen]. The whey how gill Lewis wrote about two girls a century a part but it made you feel like they where in the same room that was amazing. The author choice of genre was different as it was a dairy and it was an action but that was very… Read more »

will radwinter

I think this book was really good because it is easy to get into some of the bits are sad when people die. My favourite character was kitty because she will never give us trying to save the birds with hen. Samira is having a lot of troubles to because of Robel he is Samira’s step dad since her dad was in prison. When Samira goes to school holly and Cloe tell her not to go near Patrick because he is a nerd on birds but Samira makes friends with Patrick. He shows her how to ride a bike and… Read more »