Lenny’s Book of Everything (Karen Foxlee, A&U)
Anticipation for Karen Foxlee’s new novel is sky-high given her recent gem A Most Magical Girl. Rest assured, Lenny’s Book of Everything will exceed all expectations. Lenny’s younger brother Davey won’t stop growing, her father has left their family, and her mother is ‘made entirely out of worries’. Each chapter of Lenny’s story is marked by two constants: Davey’s escalating height and the weekly arrival of the Burrell’s Build-it-at-Home Encyclopaedia. The latter allows the siblings to experience the wonders of the world; Lenny becomes so obsessed with beetles that her mother confiscates those pages, while Davey dreams of birds of prey and travelling to Great Bear Lake. However, as Davey’s health deteriorates, Lenny must face up to some agonising realisations. She does so with the help of some expertly crafted characters, including her charming friends CJ Bartholomew and Matthew Milford, Hungarian neighbour Mrs Gaspar with her memorable dreams, and the mysterious Great Aunt Em. But it is the palpable bond between Lenny and Davey that will have readers of all ages enrapt. This bittersweet tale about heartbreak and healing has a sense of whimsy that never feels forced. Foxlee’s writing is brimming with perfectly constructed moments that merge into a truly sensational, heart-wrenching read. This is the kind of book that makes a reader feel grateful it exists.
Karys McEwen is head of library at Glen Eira College in Melbourne