Due to be released in bookshops in September (I think), I was fortunate to read an e-book version of Ewa Jozefkowicz's third terrific children's book: 'The Key to Finding Jack'. This year I've already reviewed the excellent 'Girl 38: Finding a Friend' and last year I was in awe of 'The Mystery of the Colour Thief'. Now, 'The Key to Finding Jack' is another book that is likely to stick with me for some time. It's heartwarming, life-affirming and a wonderful page-turner.
Flick's older brother, Jack, has gone on a gap year adventure to Peru. Flick misses him and the puzzles and riddles they share together. But when a devastating earthquake hits Peru and there is no word of Jack, Flick feels she can discover his whereabouts by following a series of clues left behind, including a mysterious key with the initials 'SF'. Who is 'SF'? And if Flick finds out who, will it solve the puzzle of Jack's disappearance?
This is a great detective story with a twist. While Flick's intentions are to find out what happened to Jack in Peru, the story also centres on what she discovers about Jack that she never knew, in his absence. This is an exploration about what we can really know about our close relationships and how personalities can be obsured or hidden. Jozefkowicz expertly brings Jack to life when he's essentially absent. Through Flick's insightful and mature narration we discover so much about her older brother, and this forms the beating heart of the story. It's so warm and life-affirming, with lessons on how to live life for all of us. For Flick, she learns that Jack wasn't just a troublemaker - that he was kind, compassionate and helpful to so many people - and no-one knew. Through clues about how Jack really was, Flick is able to begin to understand where he might have ended up in Peru. This is such a fabulous conceit and marks the story out as a very different kind of mystery. And the ending is both satisfying and warm - putting a big smile on your face. If only we could all be like Jack, the world would be a better place!
Jozefkowicz also dares to push the narrative form. As with the protagonist in 'Girl 38', Flick writes her own stories, which mirrors the main narrative - adding depth and a feeling of imaginative layering. Jozefkowicz's stories are as much about the process of creation, of storytelling, as it is about the events that take place. I feel that Jozefkowicz's central question in her books is: how can storytelling, art, shape our understanding of the world and our relationships with all different types of people? She explores such themes, such questions with an extraordinary light but illuminating touch. With great skill and empathy, she gets to the heart of the human condition through the eyes of children.
If you haven't read her books yet, then do so and order a copy of 'The Key to Finding Jack' soon!