Share via Email It's a sad fact that books for younger readers are often overlooked. This is truer than ever at the moment in the world of children's books — all the buzz is about writing for teenagers, the "crossover" novels, the options for films. This is a shame, because we run the risk of missing some very good books. And how much more remarkable to deliver something that is meaningful and moving, that works on different levels, when your vocabulary is more limited than when writing for the older reader.
This is what Simon Mason has achieved with Moon Pie. Martha, 11, and Tug, her five-year-old brother, have a problem. Their problem is Dad, who isn't behaving like he used to. Martha can't understand it — it's been two years since Mum died, and he was just the same to start with; he told Martha and Tug he had enough love for both of them, and they'd just have to get on with life.
But when, months later, they moved house, and then he stopped working, it seemed Dad started acting strangely. Some of Dad's strangeness is quite fun: And at least he's not as strange as Martha's friend Marcus, a sometimes cross-dressing, acting-obsessed boy with a passion for making high-speed versions of his favourite films.
Martha doesn't want to act — after all, her mother was a TV star and she knows she wouldn't be as good as her — so she makes the costumes for Marcus to play all the roles in Casablanca, for instance, or My Fair Lady. He's forgetful, he's not where he should be when he's supposed to be, he goes out late at night, leaving the children alone. Through a chance meeting at the swimming pool, Martha makes a new friend, Laura, who soon spots the problem: Martha's dad is an alcoholic.
Love is what this book is truly about — what love between family members really means, and how it is tested. The characters are real and wonderfully done. Tug's comically unstoppable appetite is hilarious, as are Marcus's sweeping appearances throughout. Although Mason is brave enough to address alcoholism, he has chosen to avoid using the word depression anywhere in the novel, even though that is clearly what Dad is battling with.
This may have been a wise move. Depression affects one in four adults but remains a taboo subject, and one that may have prevented many people from picking up this book, which deserves to be read. Marcus Sedgwick's Revolver is published by Orion.