Steve just wants to save his baby brother—but what will he lose in the bargain? This is a haunting gothic tale for fans of Coraline, from acclaimed author Kenneth Oppel (Silverwing, The Boundless) with illustrations from Caldecott Medalist Jon Klassen.
For some kids summer is a sun-soaked season of fun. But for Steve, it’s just another season of worries. Worries about his sick newborn baby brother who is fighting to survive, worries about his parents who are struggling to cope, even worries about the wasp’s nest looming ominously from the eaves. So when a mysterious wasp queen invades his dreams, offering to “fix” the baby, Steve thinks his prayers have been answered.
All he has to do is say “Yes.” But “yes” is a powerful word. It is also a dangerous one. And once it is uttered, can it be taken back? (From Goodreads)
Publisher: David Fickling Books
Publication Date: 3rd March 2016
Acquisition: Sent for review
The first thing I need to say about this book is that it is beautifully made. It is a rare treat to get a book that is so special simply in the way it looks. (A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston and More Than This by Patrick Ness spring to mind as beautiful examples) The hardback is stunning in itself, the honeycomb design beneath the jacket just too delicious for words, and the translucent sleeve that sits over the top of it, revealing the title and the author and illustrator’s names is just lovely. A beautiful object it is indeed.
The words and pictures inside offer a similar amount of beauty. On the writing front, Kenneth Oppel weaves a yarn brimming with tense, creepy moments. I found this book nearly impossible to put down as Steven slowly discovers what is happening in the wasps nest just outside his house. I contemplated missing my train stop on more than one occasion just so I could finish it.
As with many of my favourite books of all time, every word in this book seems to have been chosen quite carefully. It isn’t so much what is being told to you, it is what’s being held back. Oppel’s little suburban universe, though it doesn’t glitter with the same fantastical imagery as a fantasy might, is real and grounded, which makes the events in this book all the more chilling.
I found myself feeling slightly sick at various points, as the plot unfolds. What is happening is creepy and sickening, and it’s hard to tell where it is going to go, how far Oppel will take it, and just how on earth Steven could possibly come back from it. Oppel takes it far beyond its limit and, for a book like this, it is perfect. You will be wide-eyed and surprised throughout this book. It is truly something to marvel at.
But this is more than a straight up scary story. We actually have something a lot more real happening within these pages. We have Steven, a young boy who has an obsessive compulsive disorder so severe that there are lists before bed, hand washing until his hands a raw, and feeling tense around his unwell younger brother that he might catch whatever it is he has. It is something that was prevalent in Patrick Ness’ The Rest Of Us Just Live Here, but it is refreshing to see it in a younger child, for a younger audience. It isn’t played up to, it isn’t spelled out for us, but we know it is there, and it makes us feel all the more sympathetic towards the already ever so sweet Steven.
When you add in gorgeous artwork from award winning illustrator Jon Klassen, it takes this book to a whole new level. From the chapter heads to the full page illustrations. One image in particular towards the end of the book sticks in my mind, but I won’t spoil it, you’ll have to buy it and look for yourself. Oppel and Klassen are a match made in bookish heaven, and I really hope they do something else together quite soon.
I don’t think I can sing this books praises highly enough. It is a wonderfully creepy book that will twist you and turn you until the very end. It is gloriously eerie and excellent. Carefully written by Kenneth Oppel, and beautifully illustrated by Jon Klassen. For 2016, it is truly one to watch out for.