The Weaver’s Wish

by Louisa MacDougall. Shortlistee of the Best Chapter Book for 5-8-year-olds competition 2024


An elderly weaver and a young refugee cross paths on a Hebridean island, where they form an unlikely friendship and (with help from a marmalade-coloured cat) learn surprising skills. A story about Harris tweed and sharing.

I wrote this after spending time in a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon–I felt that most of the stories about refugees focus on the ordeals they face, and I also wanted to celebrate what someone of another culture (or age) can bring.

Chapter One

Zahra found the shell at the tide line. It was the size of a corncrake’s egg, and covered with barnacles, like lace. A wishing shell.

She wrote a wish on the inside, then hurled it into the waves, her teeth chattering as she whispered: ‘I wish, I wish, I wish!’

She didn’t see the marmalade-coloured cat, watching her from the dunes.

The cat didn’t see the tiny mouse, watching them both from the long grass of the machair.


Later, the cat took a walk along the same beach, with his person, Maggie. He pawed at pebbles and sifted through seaweed. Then he found it. A shell encrusted with barnacles.

‘What’s that, Tweed?’ she asked.

‘I wish for a coat, from Zahra (8).’

‘How unusual,’ she said, ‘for a coat to matter enough that a child would spend a wish on it.’

Maggie was a weaver. Once, she had won trophies for the tweed cloth she made. Now, her knees ached, her eyes were misty, and her precious wooden loom stood silent.

But she could still make a wish.

‘I wish to make that child’s wish come true,’ she whispered, holding the shell in her fist.

‘I wish, I wish, I wish.’


The next day, Zahra was back at the beach, alone. This rocky island was still strange to her, but the sea was a familiar friend. When she missed her home, she came here to hunt for treasures.

This time, she found a spoon, oddly shaped, with one flat side. ‘Why is it like that?’ she wondered.

Something soft rubbed against Zahra’s legs, and she saw that she wasn’t alone any more.

‘Hello!’ she said. The ochre-colour of the cat’s fur reminded her of oranges she used to pick with her father.

The cat bounded towards the dunes, then glanced back with bright eyes that said: ‘Are you coming?’ Zahra trampled after it, towards a wee white house.