Verdigris Deep by Frances Hardinge
|Verdigris Deep by Frances Hardinge|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Cleverly plotted, witty, creepy and full of delicious imagery, this is a rattling good read that doesn't patronise its young readers. Highly recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 400||Date: May 2007|
|Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books|
When Ryan, Josh and Chelle miss the return bus from Magwhite, they know they're in serious trouble. Magwhite, a run down place, is out of bounds to them at the best of times. However, madcap Josh has a plan for any eventuality. He climbs down a well and retrieves enough coins to pay for a new fare home. And you'd think that would be the end of it. Not so. Within days, all three children are suffering disturbing consequences. Peculiar, burning warts appear on Ryan's hand and he starts to have strange visions. Josh resonates a static energy that interferes with electrical appliances and Chelle's mind is filled with the thoughts of others. Still worse, something is making her speak them aloud.
And then the well witch appears, compelling the children to grant the wishes of those whose coins they have stolen...
Fans of Hardinge's well-received first novel, Fly by Night may be dismayed to find that Verdigris Deep is set very firmly in the real world. They needn't worry, for the fantasy and magic is equally strong in this perceptive supernatural thriller. It's cleverly plotted, with tight tension and just the right amount of creepiness and it ties in the emotional needs of each child with the magic element that affects them. Ryan, the clever, socially inept child, gains a clearer vision of the way relationships are not always what they seem. Josh, the lonely one, learns that power can't buy love. And Chelle, the child with no self esteem, finds that she is worth something after all. Everybody, even the well witch herself, learns that getting what you wish for isn't necessarily going to make you happy.
There's some very sharp observation going on underneath the action - adult relationships, so impenetrable to children, are neatly dissected and displayed and quite a few childhood fears are addressed. What if my parents split up? What if nobody likes me? If I go to sleep tonight, will I really wake up in the morning? It's all presented with a calm, steady wisdom that doesn't detract from the tension of the plotting.
Best of all is the use of language. Ryan, Josh and Chelle are in the early years of secondary school and Verdigris Deep is, I'd say, intended for children of between ten and thirteen or so. It's an ambitious book for this age group and at last, we have a writer who expects her readers to grasp and enjoy some fairly advanced imagery. Ryan has a penny of panic in his throat, the children embark upon adventure surfing down the snow slope on a cello case, long letters leave holes of unsaid. We need more of this loving and unusual use of words and language in children's books and I applaud Hardinge for refusing to patronise.
Verdigris Deep comes highly recommended for all keen readers of ten and up.
My thanks to Macmillan for sending the book.
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