“Sometimes stories can save your life,” Binny’s father once said, and this story could be one of them.
Binny’s dad died when she was 8, changing the world. The dismal apartments they must live in cannot house her beloved puppy, Max. He goes first to Granny, but when he proves too much for her, Aunty Violet has him “re-homed.” At Granny’s funeral, Binny rages at Aunty Violet: “You should be dead, not Granny.” Two weeks later, she does die, leaving Binny’s family a tiny seaside house. Years later, 11-year-old Binny is haunted by the loss of Max and her memories of Aunty Violet. She engages in warfare with her “enemy” Gareth, the boy next door, who is haunted too. The tale moves back and forth from the climactic scene, set in italics, to the leisurely, absorbing setup. Readers meet Binny’s loving, overstressed mother; her older sister, musician Clemency; and 6-year-old James, whose signature line is “Hello, don’t kiss me!” Binny and Gareth fight some very big demons every child will recognize, and readers will rejoice when both find a way to vanquish them, individually and together.
The writing is gorgeous, clear as water; the characters vivid and lively; the story so real each moment of loss, fear, delight and love absolutely visceral. (Fiction. 8-14)