Review Blog

Jun 09 2009

Jackdaw Summer by David Almond

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Hodder Children's Books, 2009. ISBN 978034088198 9
The summer Liam plunges his knife into Nattrass, is the summer he begins to grow up. Before that summer he is unaware of life going around him, content with his friends and school, family and village. He is aware that his best friend is growing away from him, finding a girlfriend, no longer interested in camping out and war games, looking ot the future. He is aware that Nattrass, the school bully and a former friend is goading him, turning up at places where he thought he was alone, exerting power over him. But after he finds a baby in the old ruins near his home, things change.
Liam and his family visit the child in its foster home and meet two other foster children, the enigmatic Oliver a refugee from Liberia, looking far beyond his 13 years,  and Crystal, a refugee from appalling foster homes after her family died in a fire. When Crystal and Oliver turn up at Liam's place they expect Liam to help them escape and hide from the police. But Nattrass is watching.
A most unusual story, Jackdaw Summer is the story of Liam's awakening to life around him. He learns that life is not always fair, that he has a role to play in life and must work out his part in it. The stories of Oliver and Crystal shake Liam's safe existence, the abandoned baby becomes a catalyst for his family and the wildness of Liam, camping out and playing at war is most successfully contrasted with the reality of Oliver's background and that of the other boy Nattrass, while this is all underscored by the reality of the war games being played in the hills by the Army Reserve. A thought provoking read, students will find that they continue thinking about the nature of humanity, war, refugees, families and the beast within us for a long time after the last page is read.
Fran Knight

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