By Adam Baron. Illustrated by Benji Davies.
I have to admit I saw the cover and loved it and thought it might be a fantasy style story about a boy who lives with jelly fish and lobsters in a loch in Scotland. (I should learn to read the synopsis on the back).
Then I started to read and thought I’m not going to like this because it’s written in a first person chatty style that I sometimes find a bit difficult to get into because I’m not 9 any more but I stuck with it because the voice of Cymbeline (yes, Cymbeline) is a really strong, funny voice that quickly becomes endearing. I liked him and cared for him.
It’s hard to say what the book is about. It’s about school and issues children face everyday at school. It’s about friendships and falling out and falling in. (IT’S DEFINITELY ABOUT FALLING IN !). Where it’s most powerful is when it explores family and loss. It tackles mental health issues and the impact that can have on families. As usual though, like all the best books, when all those ingredients are boiled down, it’s about love – strong, enduring, bullet-proof love.
There’s a great thread running through the book which is mystery and it could best be described as a mystery story. Cymbeline becomes stronger and more resilient as a crisis threatens his family and he becomes a detective trying to piece together his own family story.
I won’t spoil the end but it took me by surprise and I had a real feel of redemption and strength at the end of the novel. I loved the ending- surprising and hopeful but also touched by a deep sadness.
I loved it.
Postscript: this is an illustrated book and the illustrations are lovely. There’s one in particular where Cymbeline is looking through the window of the public baths (showing my age) that reminded me of being taken to my local pool by my father when I was growing up. They appear occasionally throughout the book and just add a different texture to the narrative.
Reviewed by Mr Garley