Harper Collins Australia
- ISBN: 9780008371692
- ISBN 10: 0008371695
- Imprint: HarperCollins – GB
- List Price: 14.99 AUD
At present we (as a collective global community) are having a great deal of reflection and discussion of what it means to be a hero and for many young readers their perception and definition of this might be relatively narrow. This beautiful new narrative from the author of the highly-acclaimed Pax encourages children to re-think their ideas around this.
Ware is an only child, somewhat over-protected and ‘different’. He’s not the kid who wants to join in, he is content in his own world and his passion is medieval history and all that goes with it: castles, chivalry, fanfare and brave deeds. He’s looking forward to spending summer with his grandmother, happily in his own world, while his parents work double-shifts desperately pulling together the money to buy their rented house but when Big Deal, his gran, becomes unwell the plans for summer fall apart. He is, instead, enrolled in the dreaded vacation program at the ‘Rec’ where he supposed to have ‘meaningful social interaction’ and be forced to participate in mind-numbingly boring activities. After only one day Ware explores the abandoned and demolished church next door to the Rec where he encounters a very fierce and very prickly girl, Jolene, who appears to be quite obsessed with growing plants in tin cans.
Initially the two are at odds, both wanting the space within the old church grounds but as Ware continues to skip Rec and investigate the lot and its potential they begin to find a common ground. While Ware begins to create his own castle from the ruins and Jolene fusses over her papaya plants, they both come to accept each other and the fact that the lot is, for both of them, a refuge from their troubles. It’s an unlikely friendship but one that, like the little plants, slowly but surely grows and bears fruit that will nourish them both.
The two misfits’ summer proves to be one of teamwork, mutual acceptance and understandings, problem solving, loyalty and purpose. When their sanctuary comes under real threat they must devise a plan to save not only their space but Jolene’s plantation which, for her, is her ticket to a better life.
Woven throughout are the nuances, difficulties and at times hostilities that can permeate family relationships and friendships and the slow but careful resolution of some of these is a truly moving aspect.
I loved this book and read it quickly over two nights. While essentially gentle in its narrative the interaction between all the characters and particularly the two protagonists is very engaging. Not to do it any disservice by comparison but it really put me in mind of Bridge to Terabithia with its similarity in the scope of imagination and the unlikely pairing of the two children. It’s a tremendous read and one that will be very well received by thoughtful readers from around 11 years upwards. It’s certainly one I will be recommending highly to my Choclit group (Year 7-12) as I think many of them will appreciate both the quality of the writing and the premise of the plot.