Rating: 5 stars
There’s nothing better, I find, than reading children’s fiction at a time of stress, and the last year has found me reading and rereading large quantities of books aimed mostly at children, but often with quite challenging themes and appealing equally to adults. So I’ve read again classics like A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Railway Children by E Nesbit (and, yes, I watched the classic film again, too, one particularly grey Saturday afternoon), and modern classics like Five Children on the Western Front, with which Kate Saunders won the Costa Children’s Book Award in 2014, and The Skylarks’ War by Hilary McKay, which won the same award in 2018.
This new book by Hilary McKay is in a similar mould, tackling the difficulties faced by families trying to blend together, children feeling displaced and unsettled, having to share things and people they are unused to sharing. But in The Time of Green Magic, there’s an added element which gives many unexpected twists and turns to the tale of Abi and her new step-brothers Max and Louis, when they move into an old rented house completely covered in a thick layer of ivy. At least each child has a separate room, but this is in some ways only going to make their coming together more difficult.
Abi retreats into books in her attic room, Max and his best friend mend bikes and wash cars to earn some money, little Louis feels lonely and keeps watching out of his bedroom window for owls, leaving food on the windowsill to encourage them to appear. What comes to visit him, though, is something so extraordinary that any reader is likely to feel bewitched. And Abi finds at times her books seem to be coming to life in remarkable ways. Even Max sees faces at the window.
McKay brings true magic to the story – it’s gripping, heart-warming, thrilling and tense, but The Time of Green Magic is also very funny on the challenges the children face, individually and together. The real and the fantastical blend; the struggles of the parents aren’t ever over-looked, but the main focus is always definitely on the children and the magic which suddenly enters their lives. The power of family and friends is always handled sensitively, as is the struggle of first love or infatuation.
I loved this book and will be passing it on to adults and children alike.
Reviewed by Daisy