Grandad's Island by Benji Davies, published by Simon & Schuster
There is a line in Benji Davies' extraordinary new book that reads: "At every turn they saw new wonders". This is how we felt on reading Grandad's Island for the first time (in fact we were moved to tears), and how we have felt every time since.
Grandad's Island features Syd, a small boy who joins his Grandad on an adventure to a far away island. The story vividly and poignantly depicts the special bond between grandchild and grandparent (which we've happily observed develop between our daughter and our parents over her first two and a half years).
In a series of beautiful tableaux, we see Syd and his Grandad (who has forgone his walking stick and found a new lease of life) setting up camp, diving under a waterfall and painting above the rapids. It is a cacophony of colour, which seems to burst from the page with life, sounds, smells.
While Syd wishes he could stay forever, he seems to know when it's time for him to leave. At that moment, Grandad tells Syd that he's thinking of staying on the island and Syd knows this is goodbye. At this point we understand this has become a tale of the passing of a grandparent, and the book will serve as a source of great comfort for children (and their parents) under those circumstances. The appearance of the 'storm whale' and its mother in the ocean during Syd's return journey is perhaps indicative that life carries on, even at times of sadness and loss.
Benji Davies' characters to date have been centred on the adventures of small boys and their friends, fathers and grandfathers, and their male bonds are beautifully drawn. Yet our daughter has certainly connected with his characters - first Noi (Storm Whale), Shu (On Sudden Hill) and now Syd - and all of his books would be perfect choices for boys and girls.
We and our toddler were already big fans of Benji Davies' work: On Sudden Hill (written by Linda Sarah, reviewed on this site) and Storm Whale are among her her most requested books, and Grandad's Island is now up there with her prized favourites.
Author feedback: @Benji_Davies: thank you for the wonderful, thoughtful review - so pleased you like the book.