The lost soul atlas by Zana Fraillon
Hachette, 2020. ISBN: 9780734419934.
(Age: 10+) Recommended. Twig is in the Afterlife - we know that his life ended somehow, and he is supposed to follow the path to a blissful place without cares or memories. But something tugs at him; he wants to know what happened to his Da and his friends. And there is a skeleton raven, Krruk, a guardian who is willing to accompany him back into his memories, into the world that was before, on a quest to find his father and free the world from the evil of the Hoblin.
Twig has a map and a bag of bones, each bone a key to a special place on the lost soul atlas, a crossing that must be unlocked to free past memories. In his quest he joins up with a group of street urchins living in a graveyard, and befriends Flea, a courageous leader of androgynous gender. Together they try to outwit the treacherous Hoblin, and find a way to safety.
The lost soul atlas is a quest story; there are six crossings to be opened after answering the riddle posed by each sentry. But with each crossing Twig is sent back into his past life, and it is harder and harder to remember the quest. He succumbs to the influence of the Hoblin and commits a horrible betrayal, like that of Edmund in The chronicles of Narnia.
In her 'Author note' Zaillon writes about the millions of children living on the streets, the gangs and the struggle to find food and shelter, the fear of police and authorities. It is this that comes through most strongly in her book - she has created a strange combination of mystical fantasy world and the very real day-to-day struggles of children living on their wits.
Readers who enjoy the fantasy world of quest adventure stories will enjoy The lost soul atlas, at the same time gaining insight into the real lives of street children living with the fear of abuse and persecution. It is a strange combination of the worlds of fantasy and reality, alleviated by the humour of the hard talking raven Krruk and the scurrying of the Meeple stick figures tugging at Twig's sleeves. It is easy to imagine the book as an animated movie that would capture readily children's imagination.
Themes: Quest, Fantasy, Adventure, Street children, Homeless children.