If Tilly’s world seems surreal, it is because it has been upended: Her mother is absent, bedridden with a difficult pregnancy, the family has moved, and Tilly’s best friend is miles away.
Starting school where the girls seem cliquish is hard without her mom to talk to. But there are some things about the new house and grounds that lend Tilly courage, such as the fox that enchants her nightly. In parallel to her mother’s condition, the fox is expecting a litter. Then there is the girl, Helen, whom Tilly meets in the garden in the moonlight. Whether Helen is real, a ghost, or a product of Tilly’s dreams will tease children into spirited debate. What is sure is that Helen serves as a stand-in for a companion until Tilly makes friends with Susila. Briticisms and an unusual syntax may put off some readers. Others will be lulled by the slow-moving, dreamlike quality of the writing until they, like Tilly, will be barely aware of how the real world begins to reassert itself as the pieces come together: Mom feels better after giving birth, Tilly looks forward to teaching her baby brother everything she knows, and Susila shows promise as a friend who will enjoy stories about the fox in the garden.
Nuanced and gently-paced, share this with imaginative young readers dealing with change. (Magical realism. 8-12)