What’s it about?
A brother chosen. A brother left behind. And a family where you’d least expect to find one.
Leon is nine, and has a perfect baby brother called Jake. They have gone to live with Maureen, who has fuzzy red hair like a halo, and a belly like Father Christmas. But the adults are speaking in low voices, and wearing Pretend faces. They are threatening to give Jake to strangers. Since Jake is white and Leon is not.
As Leon struggles to cope with his anger, certain things can still make him smile – like Curly Wurlys, riding his bike fast downhill, burying his hands deep in the soil, hanging out with Tufty (who reminds him of his dad), and stealing enough coins so that one day he can rescue Jake and his mum.
Evoking a Britain of the early eighties, My Name is Leon is a heart-breaking story of love, identity and learning to overcome unbearable loss. Of the fierce bond between siblings. And how – just when we least expect it – we manage to find our way home.
Told from Leon’s point of view, in a very clear and distinctive voice this poor lad totally has the odds stacked against him. A young child caring for his mother and baby brother as best he can, you know this happens now and when truths are wound into fiction it makes it even more heart-breaking and saddening.
Shoved from pillar to post Leon hasn’t had the greatest start in his nine years of life and for me anything that has kids being deprived or having to fend for themselves totally pulls on the old heartstrings. This made me sad but not tearful!
I’m not gonna lie, I don’t know anything about fostering, adoption and looked-after children but this book has a very realistic feel to it (unfortunately) and for Leon, being a mixed race kid in the early eighties wasn’t going to make him easy to place. His voice gives us a very good understanding of what it feels like to be on that fostering and adoption rollercoaster and the emotions that all involved experience.
One thing I did keep thinking throughout was oh it was different times….all that smoking with the complete lack of consideration for anyone else, and kids being able to go out on their bikes in the morning and only coming back for tea in the evening and making friends in the unlikeliest places.
Against a back drop of riots, violence, and a royal wedding I think this is one the saddest books I’ve ever read that will make you think fondly of some of the characters long after you put the book down. I hoped for a happy ending all the way through because I just wanted to adopt him! Maureen, his foster carer is a lovely character who reminds me of Sheila from The A-Z of You and Me (another must read!).
Connect with the author Kit de Waal
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