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Magrit by Lee Battersby

by Catherine Van Bergen (follow)
Fiction (373)      Children's Books (93)      Gothic (6)     

Magrit is a nearly ten-year-old girl who lives in an abandoned cemetery. Despite being surrounded on all sides by large housing complexes, the cemetery remains forgotten- a small piece of the world that has grown apart from the busy-ness of everyday life, flashing television screens and uninterested neighbours. Magrit, however, is happy, despite the indifference of the humans who surround her. In fact, she prefers to live under their radars, avoiding their attention and doing her utmost to live independently of them. She spends her days playing games among the headstones, finding food in the trash bags that are thrown haphazardly into her cemetery, and engaging in conversations with her best friend, confidant and advisor, Master Puppet. While Master Puppet may appear to be nothing more than random bones, rubbish and twigs meshed together and sitting atop the chapel roof, he is an important part of Magrit’s life, and she learns everything that she can from him. But when a stork flies overhead one day and drops a strange bundle into the graveyard, Magrit finds herself conflicted. Master Puppet tells her that the bundle will cause her nothing but trouble and that she should dispose of it immediately. When she discovers that the bundle is a small baby boy, however, she goes against his wishes and decides to look after it instead. But looking after a baby is no small feat, especially when you are a child yourself and have had little experience with other people. Magrit soon finds herself learning some very important lessons about life and, indeed, about herself…

This is an unusual but sweet story that is aimed at younger readers and looks at the relationship between a young girl, her strange friends and her less-than-orthodox living conditions. Not only is Magrit self-sufficient and kind, she is also an interesting role-model. She knows that she has her flaws, she fears certain places in the cemetery (the reasons of which come to light later in the novel) and she is wary of attracting attention from the people in the buildings surrounding her, yet she is still able to remain calm, logical and caring while looking after her newfound charge. She takes on the role of educator, teaching him everything that she has learnt herself, and advising him on the best ways to survive the conditions they live in. In turn, she finds herself learning from him, as he inadvertently teaches her about herself and what she is capable of.

This novel (were it to be adapted to a film version) would suit the talents of a director like Tim Burton. The story has the same quirky formula that he excels at producing on screen, and there’s no doubt he would do the characters justice in their portrayal (especially in the case of Master Puppet). Featuring illustrations by Amy Daoud, Magrit is a slightly odd little novel that most younger readers will enjoy. There is a small twist towards the end (that most readers will pick up on beforehand) but this only adds to the charm of this unusual tale.

Rating: 3/5
Published: March 2016

#Children's Books
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