Kirkus Reviews QR Code
DILLON DILLON by Kate Banks Kirkus Star


by Kate Banks

Pub Date: Aug. 27th, 2002
ISBN: 0-374-31786-0
Publisher: Frances Foster/Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Established as a skillful writer of deceptively simple picture books about childhood curiosity and playfulness, Banks’s first novel is intriguingly complex, enigmatic, and brilliant. From the mystique of the title, which is the main character’s name, to the opening sentence, “Each of us has a story and it starts with a name,” the reader is drawn into an eddy that swirls with the question, why would anybody stigmatize a child with the same first and last name? Dillon could never get past his name—until the family’s annual summer vacation at Lake Waban when he turns 10. His family gives him a red rowboat with his name on it—spurring him to ask “that” question out loud. The long overdue answer is that his parents are really his aunt and uncle who adopted him when his real parents were killed. The boat gives him freedom to discover himself, rowing to a nearby island where he bonds with a pair of loons who bring Dillon face-to-face with the magic and wonder of life. When they persist in building a nest in his sneaker and lay an egg in it, Dillon feels himself becoming like them. “The loon’s voice traveled into Dillon’s bones, to the depths of his soul.” He asks himself over and over again if it’s possible for a boy to become a bird. Carefully thatched strands weave throughout Dillon’s inner dialogue: his birthday boomerang that always returns, which his father says is its destiny; shoes—his as the nest and trying on his family’s shoes; the parallel of the loon parents being shot and killed over water as Dillon’s parents were killed in a plane accident over water; and the belief in the magical powers of loons to take us back to who we are. The flow of language is as smooth as calm water, the imagery graceful. As meticulous as loons preening their fathers, Banks has crafted a poignant quest for understanding by an unforgettable character whose name shaped his destiny, one that will reverberate in readers’ minds like a loon’s trill. Extraordinary. (Fiction. 8-12)