"Navigating family and friendship issues make for a tough final year of primary school"
September 2023 Book of the Month
A moving debut verse novel from this acclaimed poet introduces us to 10- year old Nate, “a week away from the end of Year 5”, showing us his streets, “not a place of labradors and lattes” and his people: brothers Jaxon, Dylan, his Mum, the missing fathers, Auntie San and PS, “ my best mate since I nicked his biscuit at nursery”. Nate tells us about The Beast too, the anger he struggles to keep under control.
Complemented by Joe Todd-Stanton’s illustrations, these word pictures bring Nate vividly to life and throughout this powerful novel we share his innermost thoughts and can really connect with all the pain, anger and love that he feels. He is gutted to discover that he and PS will be in different classes in Year 6 and then during the summer, while Nate lives in the library, discovering a passion for David Almond books, PS is in Benidorm where he meets up with the neighbourhood bully Turner.
When school begins again PS and Turner become inseparable. Nate’s lonely struggles and his love of reading do not go unnoticed by his exemplary teacher Mr Joshua, who introduces the class to Skellig and even gives Nate a special notebook and encourages his writing.
Nate needs all the help he can get when Dylan nearly dies, but that trauma proves a cathartic healing process for both friends and family: “in the darkness we find our people”. We also see a beautiful demonstration of the power of reading. The similar themes of grief and families in crisis, to be found in Skellig, really help Nate to process what he is going through.
Highly accessible, lyrical and life affirming, this is must-have novel that will authentically resonate with so many under- represented children and perfectly captures what this crucial transition period feels like. As such, it is a must read for adults as well as the children who will devour it. It will also resonate with children who have made that transition and perhaps help them with their own feelings, as well as encouraging them to write for themselves.