McElroy’s debut follows a young girl named Luna, her stuffed puppy Tiffy and her grandfather as they venture into a mysterious, fantastical space.
The story begins when a profoundly unhappy Luna discovers a winking gnome and a gate in the hedgerow that wasn’t there before. Accompanied by her grandfather, a timid Luna sets off on a whimsical journey through the gate. On the other side is a place called Spirithaven, home to a host of helpful and not so helpful fantasy characters. There, Luna is surprised to find that her stuffed pup Tiffy has become a real dog. She valiantly faces challenges in Spirithaven, both with and without her grandfather. The story is littered with allegorical characters and places like Sanctuary Park, Memory Lane and the Nothing. While allegory is a tool used powerfully by McElroy, it sometimes yields unwieldy phrases like “the Emotive Arbiter.” Some readers may find the allegorical approach heavy handed and miss a more nuanced approach, but others may find it works well to help children delve into the painful subject matter of loss. Luna provides a compelling voice to childhood depression as she numbly forges on alone through The Nothing, bravely confronting each of her personified emotions at the end of the gray tunnel. Through Luna, young readers are guided through the process of dealing with their emotions after the loss of a loved one. Themes of facing fear, doubt and loneliness are apt messages for kids and well-executed within the story. The reading level, length and subject matter make this an ideal read for parents to read alongside their grieving children.
A simple, yet powerful, story that will comfort children dealing with grief.