So how does it work? Book Bingo 2019 is a collaboration challenge I am completing with my favourite bloggers, Theresa Smith Writes and The Book Muse. Each Saturday, on a fortnightly basis, beginning on Saturday 5th January 2019, Ashleigh, Theresa and I will complete a book review post, outlining our respective bingo card entries. The Book Bingo 2019 card contains a total of 30 squares, which we will complete over the course of the year, with the aim to complete the whole card by the end of December. Two of the Book Bingo entries this year will be flexible, so that means it is completely down us as to when we post these entries, to ensure all 30 are ticked off by the end of the year. Do keep an eye out on our respective blog sites for our bonus round entries! To keep things interesting for ourselves and those following along with us, the choice of bingo square to be covered will be entirely down to us, there is no crossover – that is planned anyway! However, as Ashleigh, Theresa and I enjoy similar books, especially books by Australian women writers, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we end up with more than one book double up, as was the case in 2018! We invite you to join us in this fun book related challenge, by linking your bingo card entries in the comments section of this post, tagging us on social media, or by visiting The Book Muse and Theresa Smith Writes.
Our mother had a dark heart feeling. Lenny’s younger brother has a rare form of gigantism and while Lenny’s fiercely protective, it isn’t always easy being the sister of ‘the giant’. A book about finding good in the bad that will break your heart while raising your spirits in the way that only a classic novel can.
The bright spot every week is the arrival of the latest issue of the Burrell’s Build-It-at-Home Encyclopedia. Through the encyclopedia, Lenny and Davey experience the wonders of the world – beetles, birds, quasars, quartz – and dream about a life of freedom and adventure. But as Davey’s health deteriorates, Lenny realises that some wonders can’t be named.
A big-hearted novel about loving and letting go by an award-winning author.
Lenny’s Book of Everything is a 2018 release written by Australian author Karen Foxlee, published by Allen and Unwin. It has been classified as a middle grade (ages 10+) book, but it is a story that I feel has such widespread appeal that it can be enjoyed both young and adult readers alike. The promotional material slotted inside my copy of Lenny’s Book of Everything stated, ‘discover the wonder of the world and the beauty of being alive’. This is a perfect description of a brilliant novel. Lenny’s Book of Everything is a story that quietly surprised me with its understated, but sheer beauty.
Lenny (short for Lenore) Spink is the young narrator of Karen Foxlee’s latest tale. She and her brother Davey live with their mother, who has been left to care for her children single-handedly and hold down a job at the local retirement home. Davey is a very different young boy, he has a rare form of gigantism, which causes him to continually grow. Life is fairly simple for the Spink family. The beacon of light in their lives is the weekly delivery of Burrell’s Build It at Home Encyclopedias, a prize that Cindy won. Each week the encyclopedia collection allows Lenny and her brother’s knowledge to expand. From the comfort of their home, they are introduced to new places, concepts, key figures and creatures. It also inspires the duo to seek a life of adventure, far away from their current existence. However, when Davey’s gigantism takes over, Lenny must rise above her family’s challenges. Lenny’s Book of Everything is a touching, heartbreaking and introspective novel. It provides a solid sketch of family life, love, sacrifice and acceptance.
Lenny’s Book of Everything immediately caught my eye due to a couple of factors. It has been endorsed very widely by some of my fellow reviewers, bloggers and major booksellers. With so much buzz around a middle grade children’s novel, I was intrigued. I was lucky to receive a copy of this book via the publisher, Allen and Unwin. I have to admit that my first impressions of the book were set high. The cover is red, very bold and absolutely stunning. It features an eagle in full flight, with the inside of this majestic creature filled in by a colourful map of well-known locales. When I opened the front cover, inside I was greeted by a stunning map of the world, which also extended to the back cover.
I couldn’t wait to delve into this story. Immediately the sense of intrigue is established by Foxlee and we receive a big hint that something epic is about to begin.
‘Our mother has a dark heart feeling. It was as big as the sky kept inside a thimble. That’s how dark heart feeling are. They have great volume but can hide in small places. You can swallow them with a blink and carry them inside you so no one will know’.
Little did I know how I would be changed by this deceptively simple children’s book.
I did come into my reading of Lenny’s Book of Everything with some trepidation. I knew that this book was narrated by a child, and I wasn’t entirely sure if I was ready for another child narrator story, after reading a few over the last year. However, my worries were soon abated and I was rewarded with a story that I consumed in a sitting. I could not stop reading this book and I soon found that I was very much attached to Lenny, her brother Davey, their mother and the other full bodied characters that fill the pages of this novel. Lenny’s narration is remarkable. She offers an original and wide-eyed take on the world around her. I enjoyed her world view very much and I felt that Foxlee fully embedded herself in Lenny’s life.
Foxlee is a master at characterisation, not only is Lenny incredibly well rendered, her family are equally fully realised by the author. I felt like I was a member of their family for the time I spent with them, watching on as the Spinks went through so many testing moments. These life sequences are enriched by the supporting players that come in the lives of the Spinks family. From the cantankerous Mrs Gaspar, to the creepy Mr King, the scatty great-aunt Em, caring Nanny Flora, Lenny’s loyal friends CJ and Matthew and Martha King, an employee of Burrell’s Encyclopedias who corresponds with Cindy Spinks. There are also the fleeting moments attached to Peter Spinks as we get to know this absent father figure from afar. There is a strong sense of yearning attached this character through Lenny, which Foxlee absolutely nails.
What I also adored about Lenny’s Book of Everything was the structure. The book is compellingly told from Lenny’s point of view, which is very effective. Combined with this is a linear and routine narrative arc. Each new chapter chronicles both Davey’s height and is punctuated by the date, as well as the letter of each encyclopedia volume received by the Spinks children. In addition, there is a side epistolary focus with the letters that bounce back and forth between Cindy Spinks and Martha, the representative from Burrell’s Encyclopedias. I came to appreciate this framework very much, along with the beetle and eagle motifs that appear between the page breaks. It adds to the inner beauty of this novel.
For me, Lenny’s Book of Everything was quite the trip down memory lane. Set in the years 1969 to 1977, Foxlee recreates a world from our not too distant past. I felt a strong sense of nostalgia, as like Lenny and Davey, an encyclopedia collection named ‘Childcraft’ was a big fixture in my world during my childhood. I would spend hours pouring over this family collection and I credit this encyclopedia collection for increasing my thirst for knowledge. Through the placement of the encyclopedias in this book, I was able to relive some fond memories from my childhood.
Lenny’s Book of Everything delivers a dichotomy of sadness and hope. There are smiles and to be had and tears to be shed, but it is an unforgettable journey. It is a rare occasion when I think about where the characters ended up after the last page of the book, but I will say this was the case with Lenny’s Book of Everything. Even now I am wondering about the fate of the characters, long after I closed this striking book.
Rousing, intuitive and life affirming, Lenny’s Book of Everything is a book I recommend to everyone, everywhere.
Lenny’s Book of Everything by Karen Foxlee was published on 24th October 2018 by Allen & Unwin. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of Lenny’s Book of Everything, Karen Foxlee visit here.
*I wish to thank Allen & Unwin for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.
Lenny’s Book of Everything is book #1 of the 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge