Witch

I was lucky enough to request and be approved to read an early copy of this from the publishers on netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All views and opinions are my own.

Witch, written and illustrated by Finbar Hawkins.

Witches and the witch trials of the seventeenth century feel like a hot topic recently, and it would be easy to allow a sense of ennui set in…if it weren’t for how different the books I’ve read or heard of all are.

And this is an excellent example of that – telling the story of Evey and her sister Dill, it blends historical fact with fantasy, stunning art with beautiful prose.

Written from Evey’s perspective, the writing can take a little adjusting to, but it has a real historical feel. While I am emphatically not a historian so have no frame of reference as to its accuracy, it certainly has the feel of being from another time long past and really helps transport you to the time.

It also has a real poetry about it, both in its structure and phrasing, and in its use of imagery, symbolism and language. This is beautifully matched by the artwork in the book – detailed sketches of the natural world which add atmosphere and which I found myself pausing to study at the start of each chapter.

However, while it is undoubtedly beautiful, it is also unflinching in its confrontation of the witch hunts and trials.

The start of the book really sets the tone as, along with Evey (Eveline of the Birds to give her her full title) and little sister Dill, we witness the brutal beating and murder of their mother. It is a scene that takes your breath away and one that will haunt me, as it haunts Evey throughout the book.

Her mother’s dying wish is for Evey and Dill to find her somewhat estranged sister in a nearby coven. They make their way their, with Evey vowing vengeance and after leaving Dill in their care, she embarks on a mission to hunt the hunters.

And so behind a tale rich in nature and ‘magick’, is a darker tale of betrayal, revenge and over-powering emotions – predominantly love, anger and grief.

Sibling relations also feature strongly, with the complicated and often conflicting emotions and instincts they involve closely examined and sensitively drawn.

This is also a story of human nature. Of mob rule, the power of a crowd and our ability to quickly forget those who have helped us to suit our current needs.

I really liked the way elements of fantasy and magic were brought in, and the way they were SO closely linked with nature. The scene with the crows in particular was vivid and wondrous, despite its violence, and I could not look away.

This was a short but powerful read, written with a unique and compelling voice. I have ordered the finished, physical book and will be keeping my eyes out for whatever Finbar Hawkins does next.

Wrecked

Wrecked by Louisa Reid

Louisa is an author local to my work and launched her previous book, Gloves Off, there last year. I have to admit I was still finding my feet and desperately catching up on reading after Mat Leave then so still haven’t read it, but I definitely plan to after reading this one.

Wrecked is a verse novel (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – verse is going to explode I think!) which tells Joe’s story as he faces charges for death by dangerous driving after his involvement in a late night car crash that sees the driver of the other car killed.

As the trial approaches, we look back at Joe’s relationship with Imogen (who was in the car with him) and see them move from something seemingly ‘perfect’ to something corrosive and self-destructive that neither of them can/will walk away from.

It’s hard to say too much about this without spoilers; even talking more about their relationship, the court case or Joe himself feels like it would give away too much – part of what’s great about this book is how all its small parts, all the seemingly incidental events gradually drip, drip, drips into something bigger.

And with hindsight at the end if the book, its easy to reflect on the events that led up to it and see them for what they were.

Challenging stereotypes and tackling ingrained and often unspoken about prejudices and ideas in a very clever way, the book also addresses manipulation, mental health and the often insidious nature of both.

It comes as no surprise that Louisa is a secondary school teacher – the young characters she’s written all feel and sound incredibly real.

Moving, believable and tense, this is an absolutely gripping read that had me silently willing Joe on and desperate to see how everything played out, although I almost couldn’t bear to read the outcome to his trial.

A cleverly written and compelling book that will have you angry, emotional and on the edge of your seat.

The Black Kids

I was lucky enough to request and be approved to read an early copy of this from the publishers on netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All views and opinions are my own.

I don’t read a huge amount of YA (far less than I should!) but I loved The Hate U Give and the premise of this combined with the ‘perfect if you loved THUG’ taglines and general buzz about it really pulled me in.

Ashley is well-off, spoilt (by her own admission) and black. Until recently, the latter hasn’t played much part in her thoughts or her daily life – her best friends are rich, white kids; her home is in a rich, white area and her life has almost always been as theirs is (although, as we see when she starts to reflect on it, perhaps it hasn’t and she’s just chosen to ignore the more casually racist behaviours around her).

We’re told in the synopsis online that

everything changes one afternoon in April, when four police officers are acquitted after beating a black man named Rodney King half to death. Suddenly, Ashley’s not just one of the girls. She’s one of the black kids.

but it’s not quite this clear cut.

The LA riots of the 1990s (that began when the officers who beat up Rodney King were acquitted) do form the backdrop to the novel and they do become increasingly intrinsic to Ashley’s choices, feelings and actions, but their effects – on Ashley and more broadly – are not quite so quick and defined as this.

The book begins with Ashley herself admitting that she wasn’t all that bothered by the case to begin with; she and her friends are on the cusp of Summer, graduation and college. Life is a lazy time of skipping school, going out and having fun as they all prepare to go their own ways.

On the surface, it’s a stereotypical scenario – well-off teens skipping school to sunbathe, swim and smoke, mess about with boys/girls and generally enjoy themselves without thinking too much about anyone or anything else.

However, it’s as we spend so much time just ‘hanging out’ with Ashley and her friends in this way that we see – both in their interactions and her memories of growing up there with them – that we see the casual, incidental racism embedded in their lives. Little comments, ‘jokes’ and assumptions made; the knowledge that when they’re stopped by the police for trespassing she’s probably the reason and definitely the one at risk.

However, they’re her friends. They don’t mean anything by it. It’s just how things are. It’s okay.

Or is it?

Gradually Ashley begins to see the racism around her, amplified by the riots, and the contrast between her sheltered, protected life and the lives of the other black kids in her school and in neighbourhoods being looted, burned and vandalised.

It’s likely we’ll see a flux of books about racism given the current climate, but this one especially tackles it somehow subtly and frankly all at once and really addresses how larger events that seemingly have “nothing to do with us” can suddenly feel much closer to home.

In light of the fact that nearly 30 years on, as Black Lives Matters protests continue and we still have police officers kneeling on black necks and abusing their stop and search rights, we don’t seem to have changed at all.

The more things change, the more they remain the same.

There are so many layers to this book, so many clever ideas and angles and so much to love about it that it’s hard to review without a sprawling essay full of tangents and spoilers.

It’s less a book I want to review and more a book I really want to talk about and share thoughts on.

So, I will instead keep it short(ish!) and say just this – it is superbly written with complexity, understanding and excellent characters and relationships.

It takes quite something to take a group of wealthy, spoilt brats and give them depth, but that is exactly what we get here. It doesn’t necessarily make them likeable, but it does make them believable and understandable.

Ashley herself is judgmental and self-absorbed (to begin with at least) but it is as she learns from her mistakes and opens herself up to possibilities, people outside her friendship group and begins to consider the wider world that we see her grow.

Her sister Jo and ‘nanny’ Lucia are both fantastic characters too who bring much in the way of context, contrast and social commentary.

Ultimately, this is a book about racism, but it is also a fantastic coming of age story, a realistic and sometimes difficult examination of family and an honest look at friendships – their evolution, their end and the beginnings of new ones. And the themes interplay brilliantly.

I feel like I’ve not done this book justice here, but it is a gripping, thought-provoking, complex and believable read.

It also references some awesome music and I very much need an accompanying The Black Kids soundtrack now!

The Lost Soul Atlas

I was lucky enough to request and be approved to read an early copy of this on netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All views and opinions are my own.

The Lost Soul Atlas by Zana Fraillon, cover art by ?

I’ll preface this review with a warning that it’s one of my long, rambling ones in which I try and fail to explain why I love a book so much. If you don’t have time for that, I’ll give you the short version – this book is wonderful. Go and buy it.

I was a huge fan of Zana Fraillon’s first two books – The Bone Sparrow and The Ones That Disappeared – so I was beyond excited to see she had a new book due and then to be approved to read it.

In both her previous novels, Zana uses stories and friendship to shine a light on some very difficult and important subjects (child refugees in The Bone Sparrow and child slavery and trafficking in The Ones That Disappeared).

Whilst The Lost Soul Atlas is aimed perhaps slightly younger, it too uses the power of story, imagination and friendship to tell a story of homelessness, specifically homeless children, and the corrupt system and blinkered society which fails them. And it too is absolutely brilliant.

Perhaps a little less gritty and graphic than her previous books, the book nevertheless paints a bleak picture of the dangerous world which some children are forced to live in; it tells of a hopeless situation in which these children are somehow finding hope, positivity and possibility.

Cleverly written, there is humour, joy, creativity and optimism amongst these children, but at no point is their situation treated lightly – this is no jolly survival adventure – it is quite clear how hard life is as their cynicism, mistrust and defensive behaviours demonstrate.

This book is also slightly more fantastical than the previous two. Rather than a hint at the fantastic or the simple telling of stories, here we move between reality, memories and an incredibly well-crafted fantasy world – the Afterlife to be specific.

Twig is dead. The Gods have ensured that the dead forget, living out their afterlife (so to speak) in blissful ignorance with yoga and games of bridge. But Twig doesn’t want to forget. He wants to remember, and so he strays into The Gatherer’s path and is entrusted with the task of opening the crossings between worlds once more and freeing the memories the Gods are keeping for themselves.

With an atlas, a key, a bundle of bones, a Guardian in the form of a skeletal raven and a small army of ‘stick people’ Meeples, Twig sets out on his quest and as he does we see how it was he arrived there through his unfolding memories of life and events before.

Twig and his da had lived a poor but relatively happy life sharing stories in a cramped, shared flat, but with a roof over their heads at least. Until one day, Twig goes out to see where his Da goes at night and things go wrong.

Without his Da, Twig is lucky to be taken under Flea’s wing as he joins their group of street children, The Beasts, in their makeshift shelters in The Boneyard.

Switching between the two, the book is at once an immersive fantasy quest and a tense tale of life on the streets, in which it is easy to see how strong emotions, impossible hopes, naivety and desperation can make you most vulnerable to exploitation and being drawn involuntarily but irrevocably into a dark world of corruption.

There is so much to love about this book I hardly know where to begin – from the clever use of humour (and some truly awful, so-bad-they’re-good jokes) to balance the darker side of things to Flea’s hilarious insults and Kkruk’s begrudging sidekick stance; from the use and imagery of the maps and stories (“because stories are the maps for how we can be”) to the riddles, magic and characters Twig meets on his quest; from the friendships and loyalties both strengthened and challenged to the energy and life of good times in spite of the bad; from the nod to Alice in Wonderland to the distinct feel of Pratchett, especially in the Gods, to the way folklore and family tales are threaded throughout… and so much more besides.

The characters are brilliant. Kkruk the Sentries and the librarians really put the life into The Afterlife and Twig is a very likeable main character, who your heart goes out to as he grapples with strange new worlds.

But it was Flea (and their friendship with Twig) who I loved best. Creative, caring and ever hopeful but street-wise and uncompromising in their morals and actions they were an utterly fantastic character who I’d love to have been friends with myself!

I was also pleased to see Flea’s gender questioned, commented on and left unknown without becoming an issue or having any bearing on the story.

‘So, are you a boy?’
Flea shrugs. ‘Sometimes. And sometimes I’m a girl.
And sometimes I’m both at the same time or neither.
Mostly I’m just somewhere in between. Anyway…”

The other characters were just as good. The rest of Twig’s Blood Family, for example, give away shades and hints of their back stories – enough to give them depth and difference and individual traits, and enough to see how various children can end up in such a bleak situation, but not so much that it bogs down the story.

The Hoblin meanwhile is brilliantly written as she manages to convey both real and fairytale evil and danger.

In short, I loved this book. It is, without doubt, in my top books of the year, and given that there’s still over five months to go, that’s no mean feat.

It helps of course that I love a map on a book so a whole story with maps woven through it was always going to appeal (can we please have an accompanying illustrated atlas with The Lost Soul Atlas (both book and painted), Flea’s tent maps and the rest in?!)

Punchy, unflinching and refusing to look away from the very real and heartbreaking situation on our streets, it is also a funny and wonderfully immersive fantasy. A magical tale of friendship, loyalty, suffering and hope, this is a story which will speak straight to your heart and to your imagination.

20 Books of Summer #5 – The Last Paper Crane

I was lucky enough to request and receive a copy of this from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. All views and opinions are my own.

The Last Paper Crane by Kerry Drewery, illustrated by Natsko Seki

Put simply I absolutely LOVED this book.

Cleverly combining verse and prose as it moves between the present day and Hiroshima in 1945 as the nuclear bomb that devastated the city is dropped, the book tells the story of Ichiro as he gradually reveals to his grand-daughter Mizuki the secret and the guilt that has consumed him ever since.

Then a teenager and caught in the bomb with his friend Hiro, we hear of their surfacing after it hits; their confusion and incomprehension as they take in what is left of their city; their injuries, pain and sickness and their attempts to find first Hiro’s sister Keiko and then, seemingly impossibly, help or safety.

Fast forward back to the present and Mizuki is determined to help her grandfather put his guilt to bed once and for all by finding out what happened to the one person he feels he let down more than anyone else.

This book draws together threads of friendship, family and loyalty whilst also examining how guilt can eat away at us, whether rational or not and of course, whilst also telling the story of that horrific event.

And it is this which really hit me like a punch in the guts while I read. To the point that all those usual expressions of ‘heartbreaking’, ‘unbelievable’, ‘powerful’ etc. are true but feel insufficient. For once, instead of trying to put my thoughts into a fully coherent review, I am simply going to copy out what I noted down as I read:

Unimaginable.

Impossible choices.

Guilt.

The power and deception of the inner voice.

Instant destruction.

Instant desolation.

Like a flipped switch.

All-consuming.

How would you cope?

Incomprehensible.

Isolation

Grief.

“And yet, how strong is the human spirit.” p 202

This book gave me actual goosebumps. I can’t tell you the last book that did that.

And Natsko Seki’s illustrations were perfect for it. Incredibly evocative, with a powerfully effective black and red palette, the desolation, destruction and desperation is overwhelming.

Likewise, I found the (seemingly!) simple calligraphy strokes around the haikus (which were some of my favourite pieces of text in the book, filled with both power and hope) really effective and reading Natsko Seki’s notes on how she created these only added to their sense and the book’s strong theme of family – its bonds and its history.

I find books which take momentous and atrocious events and occurences like this – war, slavery, witch trials etc – and make them personal so effective at making the senseless and unimaginable real, and this book is an absolutely first class example of how that is done well.

Powerful, evocative and brimming with emotion, this is a truly moving story which everyone should read.

20 Books of Summer #3 – The Poet X

My third book of this year’s 20 Books of Summer challenge is one that has been sat on my TBR shelf for way, WAY too long!


The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

A coming of age tale about finding your voice and making a stand for what you want and what you believe in.

Xiomara is faced with a great deal of internal conflict as she tries to navigate a world dominated by the ways others perceive and treat her as well as their expectations of her.

With a highly religious mother, a father who’s barely there (and seems absent even when he’s present), a twin she’s close to but nothing like, and a faith that is being more than questioned, it’s a time of turmoil for Xiomara as she approaches confirmation  (unwillingly), falls for a boy and has her first kiss (illicitly) and begins to question the status quo.

I’ve mentioned before how much I love a novel written in verse, and this was no exception to that rule.


As well as being the perfect format to write about Xiomara discovering her own voice as a poet and the way she uses poetry as an outlet to both express and deal with her feelings, the verse style also added grit and punch to the story.

I thought it also helped Xiomara’s background, home and culture shine – I especially loved the way Spanish words and phrases were interspersed, as well as the religious metaphors and images.
Likewise, I’ve mentioned before that contemporary YA isn’t really my thing but this is SO MUCH MORE than a sweet-but-angsty first-kiss-and-finding-yourself teen read.

The oppression, prejudice and expectation – both immediate from her mother and in a wider, cultural and societal sense – and how we see these threaten her twin brother too (despite initial appearances) make this a much more important and much more powerful read.

There is a thread of hope through this, but nothing is certain and Xiomara’s situation looks pretty hopeless at times. I really felt for her, but also – more importantly – I really, really admired her for so many reasons.

I don’t think my own adolescence or background could have been more different, but I still found such a lot to relate to and reflect on. I wish I’d had her strength and self-respect.

The thought of young women growing up reading this, seeing this and hopefully feeling more seen, more heard and more confident from it makes me glad.

Similarly, my own relationship with my mother was nothing like Xiomara’s, but I still found myself with all sorts of complicated thoughts and feelings about and towards her mother, their relationship and my own, as I read through.

Undoubtedly this would have been more black and white if I’d read it at the time, but it shows the depth of understanding and tenacity in the writing that Acevedo is so able to create a sympathy and understanding for Xiomara’s mother even as we root for Xiomara herself.

In a similar vein, I loved the way we saw Xavier (Twin)’s story through Xiomara’s too.

This was one of those books that provoked so many thoughts and feelings in me as I read. It’s a must-read and I can’t wait to get stuck in to Elizabeth’s next two books now too.

The Deathless Girls

I requested and received a copy of this from the publishers in exchange for an honest review, but I’ve since bought the beautiful, finished (and signed!) hardback edition anyway. All opinions are my own.

The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave, cover art by Olga Baumert

I’m a big fan of Kiran Millwood-Hargrave’s MG books so I’ve been really looking forward to both this and her adult fiction debut, The Mercies, due out in February (snapped up the proof copy that arrived in work today!)

I’m also a big fan of anything that draws on folk or fairytale, myth or legend, cultural histories or fables so the fact that this is a spin on the Dracula legend from the ‘brides” point of view was really appealing.

And it’s testament to Kiran’s writing that I approached the end of the books invested in the sisters that I was still hoping they would ‘escape’ despite knowing their fate!

Although what I absolutely did not see coming was the way in which they finally became his brides in the final chapters, and especially Kizzy’s role in this – this was one of my favourite parts of the book which I can’t talk about without spoilers so if/when you’ve read it please let me know your thoughts!!

The sisters in question are brave and feisty Kizzy and the less confident Lil who loves her sister dearly but often feels like she lives in her shadow.

Part of a small and close-knit travelling community, they return to their camp on their divining day to find it burnt down and their families and friends killed or captured. Not without a fight, they too are taken to serve a nearby Boyar, leading them straight into the path of the much-feared ‘Dragon’ or Dracul – a mysterious, powerful figure about whom rumour abounds.

I loved this. It had everything I’ve come to expect from her younger books – rich, lyrical prose with vivid, detailed description that transports you right into the story; I felt the rawness of the girls’ emotions – their fear, anger, pain and loss especially, but also the flares and flickers of warmth, comfort, joy and love.

I’ve read mixed reviews of this and I think a lot of it comes down to expectation. So, let me say here that while this is a brides of Dracula story, it is their story not his – their backgrounds, family and the events which led them into his path – therefore, it is not the next Twilight, Buffy or Anne Rice vampire fest.

It is a story about sisterhood (both literal and figurative), family, love and loyalty; and it is a story primarily about power in all its guises – about in/equality, slavery and subjugation and it is a book which shouts, sings and echoes with indignation at abuses of power.

It is, therefore, unflinching and brutal at times and while this makes it uncomfortable to read that is as it should be to address these themes well and there is also tenderness, hope and strength.

Atmospheric, powerful and beautiful. Bring on The Mercies!

Rose, Interrupted

I requested and received a copy of this from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

9781444940657

Rose, Interrupted by Patrice Lawrence.

Cover art by – to be added: my proof copy didn’t have the finished artwork or name the artist and I have tried and failed to find them online. I’ll add as soon as I know who they are!

I have enjoyed both of Patrice Lawrence’s previous books, Indigo Donut particularly, but this was by far my favourite that she’s written so far.

It follows Rose and her younger brother, Rudder, as they attempt to adjust to life in the ‘Worldly World’ having left the strict religious sect they’d been brought up in. Rose, like their mum, is relieved to be ‘free’ and doing all she can to fit in and shake off her religious past, having written herself a ten point decommissioning programme.

Rudder, on the other hand, is finding it hard. He’s struggling to adjust and swings between finding in comfort in his Harry Potter books, throws and robes and feeling guilty for having them as he yearns to be accepted back into God’s Pilgrims.

I also loved the use of music, which is a common theme in Patrice’s books (especially the choice of Simon and Garfunkel). It added a wry humour and helped build Rudder’s character further.

Unlike Rose, who has thrown herself, ultimately rather naively, into modern teenage life – using chat rooms to guide her actions when it comes to relationships and choosing flamboyant ‘fairy kei’ outfits and make up to stand out on her own terms rather than because of her past – Rudder is finding the outside world, the idea of making friends and teenage behaviour terrifyingly confusing.

The dual narrative in this works brilliantly as the characters and their worries are so different, but have the same root causes for their situation and struggles. Their different ways of coping (or not) and their differing views on what happened before they left the Pilgrims are really well articulated this way, and their frustration, anger and worry for each other is made clearer because of it too.

It was also a great way to depict their relationship in a realistic way – they clearly love and care for each other, but they bicker, fight, roll their eyes, take deep breaths and generally annoy each other the way only siblings can. I thought this was so well-written.

There are real layers to this, both in terms of the story which we get more and more of the history for as it unfolds, and in terms of the topical and thought-provoking issues it deals with – social media, sexting, so-called ‘revenge’ porn and consent, but also poverty and power, religion, control and being able to break free.

There is much to relate to in both Rose and Rudder’s situations and feelings – no, I’ve never had to leave a strict religious community that shun modern life, but I have been a teenager and so many of their doubts and uncertainties and their attempts to fit in, to do what ‘everyone’ does and to be accepted will be universally recognised.

It feels deep and complex and the emotions and shades of grey involved in so much of what’s covered are clear, but it’s such a page turner too!

Those of you who are here often will know I’ve been struggling to boot myself back into reading some YA for a while now, and contemporary (in YA or MG) is NOT MY THING…but this really grabbed me and I couldn’t put it down. Really well-written, it feels like Patrice Lawrence is going from strength to strength and I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Scavengers

I requested and received a copy of this free from the publishers, in exchange for an honest review. All views are my own.

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Scavengers by Darren Simpson, illustrated by Tom Clohosy Cole

Landfill enjoys his life in the Hinterland – running free with dogs, foxes, goats and cats; swimming with turtles and chasing squirrels. He is happy in his wild, junk-yard home with old Babagoo taking care of him, as long as he follows the rules and sticks to the routine.

The rules are Babagoo’s way of keeping them safe from Outsiders. So is the wall inlaid with glass shards which must be checked for cracks, disrepair or infiltration every day. So is the need for cover whenever the Eye passes over. So is the fact that Landfill cannot yet accompany Babagoo to the Spit Pit to rummage for useful ‘treasures’ and catch gulls to eat.

And it is this last point, along with a couple of other seemingly, but emphatically not, insignificant events that plants a seed of doubt in Landfill’s mind about Babagoo’s rules and what he has always known to be true. And it is this seed of doubt combined with a chance meeting, that gradually triggers the events which will see Landfill and Babagoo’s world turned on its head.

The world-building in this is fantastic. While very much sticking to show not tell and avoiding being at all laboriously descriptive, Darren Simpson manages to describe in intricate detail this world made up of discarded, broken and ‘good for nothing’ objects in a way which has you clambering around it, climbing over it and chasing through it with Landfill.

The thick, sweet scent of rubbish and the acrid, sour smells of living unwashed, along with a multitude of others infiltrate the pages. The swarms of butterflies we see taking flight, the joy of splashing about in a sunlit pool of water (albeit, rather dirty water!), the absolute abandon with which Landfill lives as he lopes along on all fours with the dogs – all of it is described in a way which not only makes this place incredibly easy to picture,  but in a way which makes it easy to understand both how and why Landfill is so content in this place you couldn’t imagine being a home.

The use of a combination of altered, made up or old versions of words add to the sense of Landfill and Babagoo being a world apart, as do the scenes in the latter half of the book in which Landfill is slowly introduced to ‘Outside’ concepts, inventions and life. The way these are shown and described really hammer home how isolated from ‘normal’ life Landfill has been. Likewise, his innocence and naivety about the world only highlight his separation from it.

This is a coming of age story like no other. Landfill begin to question his world and rebel against Babagoo’s rules and ‘facts’. We see doubt creeping in and hurt, anger and confusion taking their turns. But ultimately, we see his love for Babagoo and his want, and need, to trust him and believe him.

However, as the reader, we are also able to see, or at least guess at, Babagoo’s dishonesty and his motives – there is no doubt he loves Landfill and wants to protect him, but his fear of Outsiders and the actions they cause may be pushing him away instead.

While part of me would have loved to know more about Babagoo’s backstory, I also liked that we were left to make up our own minds about Babagoo and his past – where do the lines of right and wrong blur, cross or meet? What should or shouldn’t he have done? Can we excuse him? What led him to his current life? Why does he do what he does? The book comes with discussion questions at the end (great for schools or children’s book groups) but there is so much to discuss from Babagoo’s character alone.

I thought the relationship between Landfill and Babagoo was incredibly well-written – the bickering and rows and the deception and disobedience juxtaposed with really tender moments where we clearly see how much they care for each other. The way this built over the book made the final chapters even more dramatic and emotive.

I did at times find the early chapters a bit slow, but the pace gradually quickens as events unfold, until the final chapters which are punchy and pacey, chaotic and tense, making this slow burning start very effective in the end. These final scenes are frenetic with panic, confusion, and desperation and a stark contrast to the contented tranquillity of their life at the start.

Again, this leaves us with questions that open up a wealth of discussion about personal vs. private lives and when we intervene and how, about mental health, homelessness and support (or lack of), about society, materialism and ‘the norm’.

I started reading this with echoes of Room or Our Endless Numbered Days, but it soon moved into its own, with its unique and detailed language and world-building to thank. There is a feel of David Almond to this, or at least there was for me, though I can’t quite place why, perhaps the coming of age narrative or the fact that the voice of this sits so well in that mid-ground between MG and YA, or perhaps for other reasons entirely! Whatever the reasons, I think if you like Almond, you’d enjoy this.

This book was a slow burner for me, but I’m glad I stuck with it. It’s incredibly moving, heart-breaking at times, and there is much to discuss, pick over and reflect on by the end.

 

WWW Wednesday 20/2/19

WWW Wednesday is hosted by ‘Taking on a World of Words’ every Wednesday’:

What are you currently reading?

Monsters by Sharon Dogar.

I’m still chipping away at Monsters. I have mixed feelings on this one but I definitely want to see it through to the end.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J K Rowling, read by Stephen Fry.

I’m nearing the end of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets on audiobooks too…which is disastrous as Prisoner of Azkaban isn’t available for another 2 weeks…! As you can tell. I’m still really enjoying these!

What have you just finished reading?

Flights of Fancy – Children’s Laureates

I thought this was a lovely book – perfect for aspiring writers, illustrators, creatives everywhere. I’ll post a full review this week.

Little Bird Flies by Karen McCombie

Amy at Golden Books Girl recommended this and I’m so pleased she did as I might not have picked it up otherwise and I loved it. With a remote, rural, historical setting it felt do well rooted and it was such a joy to read – I really liked the writing style. I’ll be reviewing it soon.

What are you planning on reading next?

I’ll definitely be listening to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban as soon as its available. In the meantime I might give something else a go but I’m not sure what yet…

I’m just about to start The Closest Thing to Flying by Gill Lewis too which I have high hopes for.

Have you read any of the books here?

What are you reading at the moment?