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Stonebird by Mike Revell


by Mike Revell

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Stonebird is Revell's debut children's novel. It follows Liam as he juggles a new school complete with bullies, with a mother for whom "wine o' clock" is becoming increasingly frequent, an older teenage sister, an absent father, and visits to a grandmother suffering from dementia. Amongst all this family drama, Liam is being pulled into a world of storytelling through a magic egg brought in by his mysterious new teacher. A world that leads him ever closer to the mysterious gargoyle, Stonebird, and to a secret that involves his grandmother, her wartime childhood, and a fatal accident.

The first thing I have to say about this book is that its portrayal of dementia, and the effects it has on both the individual and the family, has been done with great sensitivity. Seen through the eyes of Liam, it is frightening and unpredictable, and of course incredibly sad. Liam understands the condition by transforming it into the idea that his grandmother has a demon inside her, slowly destroying her from the inside- a terrible notion, but one that helps him to cope with difficult emotions, such as sometimes feeling scared of his own grandmother.

This belief in the power of stories and storytelling is the heart and soul of this book. Through storytelling, Liam gains a sense of power in the face of bullying, and finds a way to connect with his grandmother in spite of the difficulties presented by her illness. But the power of stories is not a simple force for good in this book. There is a darker side, one that Liam comes up against when he tries to use his stories to get revenge on the school bullies, and one that leads him to question his grandmother's past and her connection to the death of another young girl during her childhood.

As well as offering a truly gripping and magical story with a strong sense of realism in the portrayal of contemporary family life, Stonebird is written in a very engaging first person. Liam's voice is absolutely believable as a young boy, feeling the resposibilities of being "The Man Of The House" at an age where he can still get into "Big Trouble". The capitalisations of key phrases like these throughout the book work as marvellous little touches that really connect you to Liam's feelings at any one time. The close connection wrought through his narrative, written also in the present tense, makes for a very fast paced, and immediate read. I was with Liam every step of the way, and compelled to keep reading as the action moved on, and the mystery unravelled.

As a character, Liam is very thoughtful and caring, and especially selfless. He thinks about the feelings of others, from the difficulties his mother is going through, to the emotional wellbeing of the family dog, Daisy. Liam's sensitivity, alongside his strength of character in facing up to his bullies, and putting the needs of others before his own, makes him a hugely sympathetic character, and one whose story I felt irrepresibly drawn to as a reader.

Another nice touch to this book is the inclusion of pockets of history from the second world war brought in through a school project, and through the childhood diaries of Liam's grandmother. These touches add greatly to the mystery and magic surrounding the Stonebird, and his origins.

But what I liked most about this book was the ambiguity surrounding the gargoyle, and the power of stories to which he was connected. There was a darkness and a danger which cut through the magic. Stonebird is a protector, a helper, but how far will he go to that end? And in whose hands would the responisbility lie if something bad happened? As well as showing us the beauty of stories, this book also shows us that there is another side; that with the wrong intentions, stories can be destructive. A message that is all too pertinent in relation to the history of the second world war with which this book communes. ( )
  Victoria_A | Mar 11, 2016 |
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When ten-year-old Liam moves house to be closer to his dementia-suffering grandma, he's thrown into an unfamiliar place, with a family that seems to be falling apart. Liam doesn't remember what his grandma was like before she became ill. He only knows the witch-like old woman who snaps and snarls and eats her birthday cards. He wants to fix it, but he can't. Walking his dog one day, Liam discovers an old stone gargoyle in a rundown church, and his life changes in impossible ways. The gargoyle is alive. It moves unseen in the night, acting out Liam's stories. And stories can be dangerous things...Seeking revenge against the bullies at his new school, Liam tells a story about the gargoyle attacking them. When one of them ends up in hospital, a regretful Liam vows never to go near the gargoyle again. But his grandma's illness is getting worse, his mum isn't coping, and his sister is skipping school...What if the gargoyle is the only thing that can save Liam's family?… (more)

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