Sunday, April 4, 2010

Matty Forever by Elizabeth Fensham

“How are your parents” seems like such an innocent question but by page 87 we readers know more than Bill our hero – we know Mrs Farquay-Jones really does want her little girl Isabelle to be friends with a ‘nice boy’. When the truth comes out on page 123 it will leave you breathless.

Bill has moved to a new school and a new neighbourhood with his mum. His dad is not around and Bill is missing him. Then he discovers the girl next door - Matty and she becomes his true friend along with her lovely eccentric family (a beautiful family like the ones we visited in the Kingdom of Silk). Bill passes four very difficult tests of endurance and courage and then joins Matty's gang (of two). Together these two young friends create a very special relationship enjoying simple and fun things like using an old bath tub as a pool after a long hot day at school or painting the wall in Matty's house with a huge circus scene and of course enjoying delicious food on every occasion. They also share their most important secrets. Then one day Isabelle arrives and right from the start we know she is going to spoil EVERYTHING!!

This book is so reminiscent of one of my all time favourite picture book A friend like Ed. Once again we have an attempt at a three way friendship which is doomed by jealousy. Isabelle is a lot like Alison on Hating Alison Ashley even down to the fabulous set of highlighters, felt pens, coloured pencils, erasers and special biros that come in “a presentation case about the size and width of a large picture book, with a lock on the side that could only be opened with a secret code. .. she explained to everyone that her mother would not let her share her things because they had cost a fortune.” Isabelle even has beautiful hair like Alison Ashley. The lovely community and the way these kids bring everyone together also reminded me of Hazel Green. Finally Matty Forever reminds me of Tiger Rising, which is another special favourite of mine, especially the part where Bill needs a suitcase to hold his sorrows.
I enjoyed this book so much I started this blog entry while still reading it. My only hesitations, and they are small ones, would be Matty and Bill seem older than eight and half and nine. I am not sure a nine year old boy would notice a girl's hair - "a cascade of waving fire-gold hair" nor do I think a nine year old boy would ask to kiss a girl, not even one who was his best friend but Fensham writes this final scene so beautifully perhaps I can believe in the kiss!
I highly recommend this book and await the results of the Children's Book of the Year awards in August.

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