Published 9th July 2020. This review is of a proof-copy kindly sent by Bloomsbury.
Shout from the treetops! 'The Wild Way Home' by Sophie Kirtley is a beautiful and powerful classic in the making. This is 'Skellig' in the woods for a new generation. Poetic, pacy and packing a wild punch, Kirtley's wonderful debut is sure to be a stand-out title this summer.
'When Charlie's longed-for brother is born with a serious heart condition, Charlie's world is turned upside down. Upset and afraid, Charlie flees the hospital and makes for the ancient forest on the edge of town. There Charlie finds a boy floating face-down in the stream, injured, but alive. But when Charlie sets off back to the hospital to fetch help, it seems the forest has changed. It's become a place as strange and wild as the boy dressed in deerskins. For Charlie has unwittingly fled into the Stone Age, with no way to help the boy or return to the present day. Or is there … ?
What follows is a wild, big-hearted adventure as Charlie and the Stone Age boy set out together to find what they have lost – their courage, their hope, their family and their way home.'
This is a vital and heart-felt book; breathlessly dramatic and imaginatively astute. Chapters are pacy and deceptively simple. Kirtley writes with poetic ease and splendour, while revealing the soul of her protagonist, Charlie, with a directness and lightness of touch that is compelling to read. Kirtley gets into Charlie's head like lighting a lamp, and his reactions to terrifying and startling events are simply spot-on. Somehow it feels as if Kirtley has really travelled back to the Stone Age and returned with some beautifully poetic prose to devour. She creates atmosphere sometimes with just a word - this is the poet in her - and how well it works in children's fiction!
Children will love to read about the journey into the wild and how things were different without phones and games consoles. Themes to do with nature, family, belonging, wildness are explored with subtlety but with a huge amount of heart and charm. I couldn't help compare the feeling and the mastery over the child's point of view to 'Skellig'. As in that book, there is a strange encounter with something other, something wild and strange, to resolve the issues or feelings around a younger sibling. 'The Wild Way Home' absorbed me and made me smile as much as 'Skellig' did. And that is high praise indeed.
This is a definitely one to get your hands on or even PRE-ORDER before July! Shout from the treetops, this is one not to miss!
Thanks to Bloomsbury for this proof copy to review.