Lenny’s Book of Everything
Allen & Unwin 2018
I’ll be frank about this book. So many people had told me it was brilliant that I wasn’t sure whether I was suffering from FOMO or doing that weird ‘not-reading-it-because-everybody-else-has’ thing.
Now, picture me, standing in the bookshop at the CBCA National Conference in Canberra, surrounded by nothing but amazing children’s books, on a self-imposed book diet (to appease the hunger gods, since I’ve dropped to part-time in my day job), and telling myself two, absolute maximum.
Also, picture that I am a sucker for a beautiful book, and there were lots of beautiful books.
Lenny’s Book of Everything by Karen Foxlee was only one of them.
‘Oh, you must read that. Bring tissues,’ I was told by at least three people as I stood, admiring the cover and absolutely drooling over the endpapers, already intrigued by the map (love a map) and wondering about Great Bear Lake.
I flicked to the first page. Coy. I’m not really interested.
Read the first sentence. Hmmm? I’m hooked.
Continued reading the first page. All defences gone. Reeled in.
Okay, so I took it home. And I savoured the reading. This is a book about characters. Big, beautiful characters, full of love and hope, but flawed and human. Lenny is brimming with love... and jealousy, and curiosity, and hope. Her younger brother, Davey, is love.
I read on. Not my usual fare, but compelling. Like the children in the story, I waited to see what each new section of their encyclopaedia would bring. I waited to see what would happen about Davey, and his non-stop growing. I waited, but I could feel myself being propelled down, deeper, towards something I did not want to happen. Yet I knew it must, and when it did, I was stricken.
It was late. I really should have put the book down and gone to sleep. I couldn’t. I couldn’t read either, because tears did not just flow, they gushed. I struggled to the end, sobbing.
But this is a story without bitterness.
It is a story with connection.
The very last page. Better even than the first. But to feel it, you have to read all the others.
A brilliant book.