My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I talk a lot about how we read books before reading them. There’s so much about the book that we read before getting anywhere near that front page, that first word. The position of it on the shelves. The front cover. The font used for the title, the copyright pages. The endpapers, the blurb. All of that is colour and shade. Light, dark, left, right. It lets you find the edges of the book, the space that that book occupies within the world, and it tells you what to think of it. Books have codes, messages, and we read a thousand of them every day. You’ll spot a cookery book a mile off, a history book, a romance book – they all have their nature writ all around them.
All of this is to tell you how very beautiful Little Bits Of Sky is before you even begin to read; the front cover is a chair sat by a window glass; nine neat panes, but the glass is cut out and the front cover’s a wrap around that you can lift off, and underneath is bright blue sky and lush, rich countryside. Nosy Crow know their stuff and this is a smart, clever book. And it’s all of that before you even read it, all of that because of careful and nuanced production and some beautiful, clever art courtesy of Katie Harnett.
So, Little Bits of Sky itself; this is Streatfeild meets Jacqueline Wilson with a little bit of Tom’s Midnight Garden thrown in for good measure, a quietly beautiful book with an ending that reads like a swift, delicious rainstorm on a bare blue, sun-soaked day. I liked this gentle, rounded story, I liked it a lot. It is moving and subtle and slowly wrought; Ira and Zac are care children who end up in Skilly House, a care-home in London. It’s the 80s and the Poll Tax protests and unrest form a background of singing tension and unease to Ira’s and Zac’s life which centres on their homes and on each other, and the search for the story of themselves and their forever home.
Life, living, told through the eyes of Ira, it’s an occasionally disjointed, and told rather than shown narrative (though perhaps some of this is inherent to the diary format) but what it is, above all, is true. Durrant has the great gift of reality and of truth; her writing is subtle, quiet, and real. These characters speak like people, the children speak like children, and the ending is a great, burning moment that is rich and it is good.