Monday, 6 February 2017

The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson - review

Matty spends his day watching the lives of everyone in his street out of his bedroom window. So he is a crucial witness when a toddler is snatched from outside his home - and Matty really wants to help.

Only Matty is living an increasingly isolated life owing to his overwhelming fear of germs. 

His compulsion to clean, and to go nowhere near anything he perceives as remotely dirty, has resulted in him skipping school and hardly even leaving his room.

The crime, committed just outside his front door means Matty will have to overcome his crippling anxiety to do the right thing.

Readers of  Lisa Thompson’s contemporary debut for children ‘The Goldfish Boy’will be rooting all the way for Matty. He's a great character and his debilitating illness provides a unusual obstacles in his quest to solving a good mystery.

Matty gets the surprising help of two other lonely children in his street, so this is a story about courage and fighting your fears head on. It’s got a great message at its heart of the importance of community, and how, if you talk to people, you might discover that everyone lives with their own fears.

The biggest strength of the story is Matty, whom you are willing on at every painful step.

We learn he has more than one shameful secret in his past. He treated his best friend really shabbily when he was really needed and when stepping in would have made a big difference. Yet what is actually at the root of his obsessive compulsive behaviour is another issue entirely, one where Matty sees the consequences and feels blame, even though this time it is not his fault.

It is a strong recommend for reading groups with lots to discuss about mental illness, the nature of guilt and how letting things eat away at you inside can have consequences.

But it is also a very enjoyable mystery all about whether the fate of an eighteen-month-old is safe in Matty's very over-washed hands. 

Can he confront his fears, do the right thing - and, also, help himself on his own road to recovery?

A complex, emotional and uplifting story to start the new year.

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