One big happy FAM­ILY


New Zealand Woman’s Weekly - - READINGCORNER -

This novel has en­tirely won my heart… and bro­ken it too. Of­fi­cially it is chil­dren’s fic­tion, but I think this is one of those books that adults will en­joy just as much, if not even more.

Funny and joy­ful, it’s also very sad – at one point I had to put it down be­cause I was cry­ing so much the pages were blurred. And while I don’t want to build up ex­pec­ta­tions too high, just qui­etly, it’s a bit of a mas­ter­piece.

Lenny’s Book of Ev­ery­thing is the sim­ple story of two chil­dren grow­ing up in Ohio in the 1970s. Their fa­ther has de­serted them and their mother, Cyn­thia Spink, is do­ing her best to raise them alone. Lenny, the el­dest, is a smart, imag­i­na­tive, beetleob­sessed girl. And Davey is her adorable lit­tle brother.

The prob­lem is, though, Davey doesn’t stay lit­tle for long. He keeps grow­ing and grow­ing and is prac­ti­cally a gi­ant by the time he’s at school, and ev­ery­one can see there is some­thing amiss, even Mrs Gas­par, their chainsmok­ing, babysit­ting neigh­bour.

Surely this in­cred­i­ble height can’t just be be­cause of Davey’s Swedish an­ces­try?

When the Spinks fam­ily wins a free sub­scrip­tion to the Bur­rells Build-It-At-Home En­cy­clo­pe­dia set, the whole world is opened up to them one let­ter of the al­pha­bet at a time. The plot hangs around the ar­rival of each is­sue, the fas­ci­nat­ing facts the chil­dren dis­cover and Davey’s alarm­ingly in­creas­ing mea­sure­ments as time goes by.

Of course, this isn’t re­ally a sim­ple story at all. There is the writ­ing, so beau­ti­ful and ex­pres­sive. There is the glo­ri­ous cast of char­ac­ters – from Lenny’s school­mates to creepy

Mr King the fruit-seller and sus­pi­cious Great Aunt Em.

There is an ex­tra­or­di­nary child’s-eye view of the world, the charm­ing cor­re­spon­dence with the staff at Bur­rells en­cy­clo­pe­dias, the ten­der­ness be­tween sib­lings, neigh­bours and friends, and just the right amount of whimsy.

Aside from that bit where I had to find a tis­sue, I couldn’t bear to put this book down. It is ev­ery­thing that is good about sto­ries.

Lenny’s Book of Ev­ery­thing by Karen Foxlee (Allen &Un­win, RRP $22.99)

Sib­ling love! Nicky Pel­le­grino BOOKS ED­I­TOR

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