Monday, November 26, 2018

The Land of Neverendings by Kate Saunders, 2017

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When Emily's sister Holly dies, she is surprised to find that she misses her toy bear, Bluey, almost as much as Holly. Bluey was Holly's constant companion, and Emily used to make up stories about him and his escapades in the magical (and very silly) world of Smockeroon to entertain her. And the only person who seems to understand Emily's grief is Ruth, her kindly next-door neighbour.

But then very strange things start to happen. Emily dreams of talking toys visiting her bedroom, telling her that they have come from Smockeroon, and have a message for her from Bluey. A terrible black toad, who stinks of sadness, begins to stalk Ruth's house. And when a parade of penguins wearing plastic moustaches marches through their kitchen - well, Emily has to begin to wonder whether this is all a dream after all. But why are the toys here, and what could Bluey possibly be trying to tell her?

This stunning novel will tickle your funny bones as much as it pulls on your heartstrings, and is a true classic in the making.

(317 pages)

Last month I took two trips in a week and spent a lot of time in airports. I ran out of TV to watch about an hour before one of my flights, so I ducked into Waterstones and picked out The Land of Neverendings.

It was the perfect airplane book: an interesting and innovative scenario, a relatively easy read accessible even to kids, and a story that is surprisingly deep.

I really love this story idea. It's full of different kinds of grief, from Emily's raw horror after the death of her sister to her neighbor Ruth's lingering sorrow many years after her son's death. We see how Emily struggles to get through the days and holidays after Holly's death. There is also a focus on friendship, as Emily makes new friends and struggles to relate to old ones. The toys which are coming to life are the driving force behind the shifting relationships.

The toys themselves are adorable. I love watching them interact with each other and with the humans, and learning about the goofy world they live in. The idea that our toys really do inhabit the worlds we imagine for them is amazing, such a great concept.  I also really enjoyed seeing Emily's relationship with Ruth, as they bond across the generations over their shared grief and their experiences observing and interacting with the toys which come to life.

All in all, this was a great read that I'm very glad I picked up. Sometimes it's nice to grab something out of the blue and rediscover the charm of reading.

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