One big happy FAMILY
DISCOVER THE WORLD THROUGH LENNY, DAVEY AND THE MAGIC OF BOOKS
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