Owen and the Soldier is a touching story relating how we all need to have someone to listen to us when times are hard but also need to be brave enough to ask. In her first title for Barrington Stoke, Lisa Thompson has yet again tackled difficult subjects, depression, loss, anxiety and grief, with an understanding and kindness that children will find both comforting and relatable.
Owen has a secret. He likes to go and sit in the park and talk to his friend the soldier. The soldier is made of stone and sits on a bench in the memorial garden, a tribute to the brave people who lost their lives in war. Things are difficult for Owen and his mum. They are both struggling to cope and this struggle manifests itself in different ways in each of them. Owen finds comfort in talking to his silent friend as he can share his worries with the soldier safely. Then he learns that the council are planning to modernise the park and get rid of his soldier. Owen is devastated and decides to fight to save the statue and show everyone how important it is. However to achieve this Owen will have to be brave and reveal why the soldier means so much to him.
This is a compelling read that I found extremely moving. Lisa Thompson has already proved that she can write about difficult subjects with compassion and understanding in her longer middle grade novels such as The Light Jar and in this novella she has made them accessible to slightly younger readers. Owen is an extremely likeable character and young readers will readily engage with this worried and sad little boy. As they follow his story they will also learn the importance of asking for help when it’s needed, the importance of accepting the hand of friendship and that sometimes you can be braver than you imagine.
The school scenes were, I felt, extremely realistic. They captured the feel of everyday routines, the chat amongst classmates and friends and the kindness shown by Owen’s teacher, who, despite what Owen thinks, only wants the best for his pupils. The publication of this book coincides with Empathy Day which was marked this week and this tender story is a wonderful example of the way in children’s fiction promotes an understanding of others and ourselves. Owen and the Soldier is a book that encourages children to care. I loved it, even though it made me tearful and would highly recommend it.
There are some great books being published by Barrington Stoke at the moment and I would like to thank Kirstin Lamb for sending me my free review copy. The finished book has a very appealing cover by Mike Lowery.