Laura Dockrill’s debut for Barrington Stoke weaves together family, loss and hope in a story that is both poignant and striking in its portrayal of our society. This is a touching and imaginative tale with love at its centre.
Nine year old Sequin’s mum is a talented seamstress who works all day and most of the night on beautiful designer dresses for famous people. Their tiny twelfth floor flat is bursting with colourful fabrics, sumptuous silks, buttons and twinkling beads. Sequin loves it there, it feels like a haven. While her mum works Sequin looks after her baby brother, Stitch and dreams that one day her mum will get the recognition she deserves. It is the designers whose names appear in the magazine articles and next to the glossy photos. Although her mum appears resigned to this Sequin believes it should be her talented mum who receives the accolades. To make things worse when Sequin chooses her mum as her ‘inspirational person’ in a school presentation her classmates do not believe her descriptions and accuse her of lying. Unkind children tease Sequin about her mum who never leaves the flat and although Sequin is quick to deny the accusations and defend the mother she loves very much she is hiding her own fears and anxiety.
Laura Dockrill’s writing is fresh and accessible and with Sequin as an engaging narrator this is a story that children will find both relatable and thought provoking. The author has explained how this story was prompted by the Grenfell tragedy and yet here she dwells not on the loss and the grief but on the sense of community, the resilience of children and the feeling of hope for the future. At less than 100 pages this is a short read but nonetheless it is one with considerable impact. Subjects such as mental health, bullying and grief are important elements of the story but are approached with care and in a suitable manner for the intended audience. The plot and the subtleties of the characters are revealed by degrees in a well executed storyline culminating in a satisfying ending.
Laura Dockrill has drawn on her own childhood experience for some of Sequin’s world and the description of her home clearly shows for this as the setting comes to life in the writing. There are some lovely touches in the depiction of characters such as the young fashion designers and Sequin’s neighbour who all feel true to life.
Despite the subject matter and the link to a dreadful national tragedy this is a story full of kindness, love and hope. We often cite the importance of books as a means of encouraging empathy in children and this book and its thoughtful message is evidence of how they are able to do this. A highly recommended read. This book has a dyslexia-friendly layout, typeface and paperstock so that even more readers can enjoy it. It has been edited to a reading age of 8.
I would like to thank Kirstin Lamb and Barrington Stoke publishers for providing my review copy.
Barrington Stoke have published a number of books dealing with serious themes and you may like to look at It’s a No-Money Day written and illustrated by Kate Milner a picture book about a family using a food bank or Owen and the Soldier by Lisa Thompson another kind story looking at grief and anxiety.