Wednesday 8 May 2019

Lenny’s Book of Everything

Lenny’s Book of Everything by Karen Foxlee (A&U) PB RRP $19.99 ISBN 9781760528706

Reviewed by Kathleen Condon

It is rare to find a book, especially one for children, which employs a writing style which is distinctively different from others. Karen Foxlee is one of the very few YA authors I’ve come across in decades of reviewing books who writes ‘differently’, her language quirky and poetic. For instance, here is how she starts the book: ‘Our mother had a dark heart feeling. It was as big as the sky kept inside a thimble. That’s how dark heart feelings are. They have great volume but can hide in small places. You can swallow them with a blink and carry them inside you so no one will know.’ It takes a special reader to come on board a book with language like this but anyone doing so will surely benefit and come to love the characters in Foxlee’s books.

Lenny’s Book of Everything is a book with a stellar cast. There is Cynthia Spink, the proud, hard-working, single mother of two; Mrs Gaspar, the eccentric Hungarian crone who lives in their apartment block and cares for Cynthia’s two children while she works; Lenny Spink who narrates the story, and Davey, her good-natured younger brother who happens to have gigantism.

From the day Davey is born, his mother has ‘a feeling’ which she’s unable to articulate but which she repeats often. The Spinks live an ordinary life punctuated by the excitement of the arrival of the latest issue of an encyclopaedia set that Cynthia’s sharp letter-writing skills won. Each book as it arrives, allows the children to see the world outside of their small town. They experience the wonders of the world - beetles, birds, quasars, quartz - and dream about a life of freedom and adventure, visiting places like Saskatchewan and Yellowknife, and the gleaming lakes of the Northwest Territories.
However, as her brother's health deteriorates, Lenny comes to accept the inevitable truth; Davey will never make it to Great Bear Lake. 

This outstanding novel about heartbreak and healing by an award-winning author is a wonderful read for discriminating kids over the age of ten, but which will also be read and enjoyed by many adults.

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