Friday, 15 April 2016

Swan Boy - Nikki Sheehan - enchanting

My thoughts

I don't read many childrens or young adult books but I spotted this up and coming novel and something about the description appealed to me.

Swan boy by Nikki Sheehan is obviously going to draw comparison with Billy Elliott with the young lad and dance connection, but Billy Elliott didn't captivate me as much as Young Johnny Emin did. The lovely writing reminds me very much of David Almond David Almond (of Skellig fame)

13 year old Johnny doesn't have an enviable life, his Dad died recently, his Mum moved them to a tower block miles from all his mates, he has to look after his little brother Mojo, whose name I really don't like :( Mogjo's just a little kid, 5 years old and half the time pretending to be a dog, or is he a cat today? He spends his free time drawing elaborately on the kitchen table and Johnny agrees to keep this hidden from Mum as at least it keeps Mojo occupied and helps with him missing his dad too much.

To crown everything, Johnny had to change schools with the home move, and is now the new boy that everyone loves to pick on, at a rather rough school where he can't seem to fit in.

Gosh I loved Johnny, I really wanted to make everything ok for him, but it isn't and it's going from bad to worse. The gang of kids known as the populars have chosen Johnny as their pet project and making his life even more miserable is the little gangs leader Liams ambition. Liams a nasty little bully boy with a few hangers on who aren't any better than he is. But one day as Liam has a massive go at Johnny a rescuer appears in the unlikely appearance of a Swan who scares off Liam and seems to be protecting Johnny. Rather inevitably this marks him out even more and he becomes known as Swan Boy and not in a nice way!

Johnny's not the only kid being bullied, there's the lonely overweight kid Stefan from whom the gang are extorting cash and both he and Johnny end up in the schools strict punishment regime of being made to pick litter after school as reparation for any misdemeanour a hated rule from which there no escaping. Except that this time there is .... an alternative that is.

The large group of youngsters on litter picking duties, which also includes Liam and his cronies are offered the chance to escape the litter crew by taking part instead in a dance group which quirky drama teacher Mrs Cray has formed. It's Hobsons choice for Johnny, either he picks litter wearing a bright green uniform and become even more noticeable and likely to be bullied, or learn to dance and get picked on for that. But when he reluctantly goes to Mrs Crays class she offers him a starring role in the dance - which just turns out to be ballet and it's based on Swan Lake! Swans become an over riding influence to Johnny and he keeps coming across them in unusual places as he eschews litter picking to learn dancing and even a piece de resistance move which will be almost like flying. Day by day he grows and develops and we watch him learn to be himself and begin to grow into the man he is set to become one day.

This is a coming of age story which seemed to be out of my comfort zone reading wise yet I felt instantly at home in.

There are a few slightly ethereal elements to the story, although many things fall into place very neatly a couple of things remain inexplicable. The whole story is beautifully told, just the right balance of nastiness and a touch of niceness to counteract it and the everyday alongside the otherwordly. Utterly charming and wonderfully readable I recommend this enchanting book to readers of all ages from 8 to 80.

I recieved a free copy of this beautiful book from Oneworld publications in exchange for my honest opinion which its been a pleasure to give.

The blurb

When Johnny moves house and starts a new school he has to deal with a bully who can't leave him alone. But help comes from an unexpected and surprising source and Johnny's growing power soon puts him in a very special place.

A chance encounter with a swan sparks a series of events that result in Johnny playing the lead in a school ballet. His teacher wants him to live the role, and when feathers start sprouting on his chest, Johnny begins to understand his true potential. But will he be strong or brave enough to beat his bullies, take care of his brother, support his mother and find a place for himself among all the chaos that is prevailing in his life.

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