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Avery, Tom. Not As We Know It.

Avery, Tom

Not As We Know It

Illustrated by Kate Grove

Andersen, 2015, pp240, 6.99[pounds sterling]

978 1 78344 226 3

This is a sea-grey book, printed on sea-grey paper with sea-grey print and sea-grey illustrations. At first this may seem uninviting, but as the book progresses it becomes more and more clear why the publishers chose to present the story in this way. It concerns twin brothers who live near Portland, with their parents and a grandfather who is a fisherman. The boys are beachcombing and find a merman with a dislocated shoulder. They take him home, reset his shoulder, and feed him on grandfather's fish and on mussels they find themselves. One of the brothers, Ned, has cystic fibrosis and has not long to live. The boys' neurotic mother spends most of her time in tears, anticipating while trying to postpone the bereavement, but the boys lead their own lives, with courage modelled on the characters in their favourite programme Star Trek. Grandfather has many tales about mermaids, while Ned's relationship with the merman becomes closer and closer. As the book ends the merman is returned to the sea and Ned escapes from hospital and goes to join him.

It is a strange book, but although it deals with a family haunted by a terminal illness it is inspiring and not at all depressing. The illustrations pick up the underwater theme, and hint at the strangeness of the merman without slavishly following the factual description which is given in the text. The seaside world around Chesil Beach is evoked in a way that has echoes of Eliot's 'Dry Salvages'. The publisher's suggest readers of age 9 plus and the occasional nine year old would certainly enjoy it. Most readers, however, will probably be rather older. Strongly recommended.

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Author:Axford, Martin
Publication:School Librarian
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jun 22, 2015
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