Publication date: 4th July 2013
Source: uncorrected proof (obviously it had been around a while when I found it at work!)
Blurb: How do you begin to tell your story when you can’t speak?
Ethan has lived on a barge for as long as he can remember. It’s his home, his sanctuary – where he feels safe. He spends his time exploring the banks of the canal and taking school lessons from his mother. There is no one there to laugh at him because he doesn’t speak.
Then one day a new boat appears alongside his. Its occupant is Polly, a chatty and bubbly girl who shows Ethan a world that is unfamiliar, different and exciting.
Ethan can’t remember exactly when he stopped talking or why. But can Polly help him finally find his voice?
My thoughts: This is a really interesting idea for a story, particularly the telling of the story from the perspective of a character who does not speak. Despite Ethan’s stilted communication with other characters, we receive a great deal of insight into his thoughts and emotions through the narrative which is told from his perspective. This limited viewpoint helps us to engage with Ethan and I found myself really getting behind the character and wanting him to succeed in unraveling the mystery of why he stopped talking in the hope that he could overcome his silence.
Polly is probably my favourite character, however; she is a strong female character without necessarily being fearless and invincible. One of my favourite things about this book is that Ethan and Polly treated each other as equals and were portrayed as equals in the narrative. They both had problems to overcome and each helped the other in solving these problems.
“Normally, Polly was good at everything. Ethan liked her even more now. Because it meant she was like him – good at some things, but not as good at others.” – page 77 (of uncorrected proof)
I have to admit, however, that I was a little disappointed with the answer to the mystery of Ethan’s loss of speech. It didn’t feel entirely credible to me, but perhaps I am used to more complex solutions to problems. For the target audience, the solution is a neat little ribbon that ties everything together nicely.
Overall, this is a charming story in which everything comes together well leaving no unanswered questions. A clever and sensitive approach towards problems faced by children who feel different with a positive message about overcoming difficulties.
I’ll leave you with my favourite line:
“The stars looked brighter now, like Polly had dipped a pin in silver paint and touched them up for his walk home.” – page 44 (of uncorrected proof)