The Lost Soul Atlas (Zana Fraillon, Lothian)
The Lost Soul Atlas marks Zana Fraillon’s triumphant return to middle-grade after a stint writing YA and picture books, with Fraillon once again tackling significant social issues in this exploration of family, homelessness, poverty and corruption. In this remarkable, poignant novel, Twig awakes in the Afterlife and must choose between a blissful future in which he remembers nothing of his life, or an arduous quest to regain his memories and find his missing father. The novel presents a dual narrative: Twig’s memories of his former life, and his journey through the Afterlife to reclaim them. Fraillon cleverly frames the more difficult themes uncovered by Twig’s returning memory within an extremely enjoyable adventure story, replete with a long-suffering, wise-cracking raven skeleton sidekick and a throng of tiny stick-figure allies. Wonderfully unexpected moments of levity prevent the reader from becoming too weighed down by the heavier content. The novel’s evocative language and sophisticated jokes and wordplay should encourage young readers to deeply engage with the text, and the more challenging subject matter is dealt with in an empathetic and thoughtful way. Fans of Wonder, Counting By 7s and the work of Katherine Rundell will find a lot to love in the pages of this truly wonderful book.
Hannah Gardiner has a master of arts and a master of research in children’s literature, and works as a children’s book buyer.