A simply stunning story told
His Name Was Walter — Emily Rodda (Harper Collins, $25.00) Reviewed by Louise Ward, Wardini Books
This chapter book for readers of about nine years and up combines modern school experiences, fairy-tale and allegory with just the right amount of spook.
Colin has recently moved to town from rural beginnings and is lonely and homesick. On a school trip to experience historical settings and forbidden to use modern technology, he assesses his classmates — the shy one, the gregarious one, the nerdy one. When the bus breaks down and leaves them in the middle of nowhere with a storm coming, one teacher and most of the kids hike to the nearest cell phone reception while Colin and a few others take shelter in the unoccupied house on the hill.
Colin finds an old, handwritten book that at first glance is a fairy story. Colin’s artistic eye is drawn in by the illustrations and the children’s teacher suggests he read it aloud. Something in the house has been yearning for this book to be read… and another something wishes the opposite. Walter, a brave and adventurous spirit was raised in a beehive orphanage and in the world a witch prophecies that he will save a life, right a wrong and die at the hands of an enemy.
The author offers finely rendered observations of people’s personalities and motivations. Nothing is as it appears and Colin’s thoughtful watchfulness enables the reader to sit with the children as the story is told, feel their interest and fear and how the story effects the old house.
Walter’s story is much more than a fable and it leads us, with Colin, into a tale of twists, turns, loves, friendships and injustices and ultimately to an unforgettable resolution. His Name Was Walter is a book to give as a gift and to talk about with friends.