Book Review : A Double Whammy!
These books arrived at my home at the start of the lockdown as part of the 2020 Carnegie Longlist. I have grouped the next two reviews together because both books, while totally different in stories and nature, are linked in the way that they portray sibling relationships and they’re both set a little bit in the past.
Lenny’s Book of Everything, Karen Foxlee
Holy Batman! I loved this book. The relationship between Lenny and her brother Davie is one of the cutest things to read ever. At times though, they’re a little bit too cute. I have two brothers and two sisters and while we’re all pretty close now, growing up we weren’t nearly as kind to each other as Lenny and Davie are.
Lenny’s Book of Everything is set in America in the 1970s. As a result, it reads in a familiar, but not quite real, way. It’s nice to read about two children who are excitedly awaiting the arrival of the latest instalment of their encyclopaedia because it’s so different to being able to stream or download everything instantly.
The book is structured in a really interesting way. While it’s written from the perspective of Lenny herself, it’s interspersed with letters between the publishers or the encyclopaedia and her mother, and punctuating the narrative is the age and height of her younger brother, Davie. This is nicely done because we’re able to understand the world from the young girl’s point of view, but we also get the chance to see her mother trying to do everything she can to provide for her children.
Like everything, fiction or otherwise, the story in Lenny’s Book of Everything takes a drastic turn when Lenny, Davie and their mother take a trip to the doctors for Davie’s height condition. At a time during lockdown, it’s particularly heart-warming to see a community coming together in order to look after each other.
Ideal for people aged 10+, but this is by no means strictly a book for children or young adults. Just beware.: if you’re like me, you may need tissues for the end.
Book Review: The Skylarks’ War, Hilary McKay
Firstly, I’m genuinely upset that this didn’t make it to the shortlist of the Carnegie award this year. It has everything I like in a book: the characters are all individual and interesting and the plot has a great mixture of excitement and danger.
The Skylarks’ War charts the lives of Clarry and Peter in the early 20th century and the book touches on the key themes that are central to that period of history. This includes women’s rights and their education, and men signing up for the first world war. These are serious topics and they’re fabulously handled throughout.
Central to the story is the connection between Clarry, Peter and their family and friends. McKay doesn’t shy away from showing the characters’ weaknesses, which makes them – and the different relationships they have with each other – move believable.
I also really like Clarry as a character. Yes, she’s hard working and intelligent, but she’s also acutely aware of what she can and cannot do, not only because of her own limitations, but also the limits that the world has placed on her as a girl. My favourite thing about her is that she tries her best to better herself and break out of these limits, like when she learns how to swim, despite the disastrous costume choice and first lesson.