A brother chosen. A brother left behind. And the only way home is to find him.
Leon is nine, and has a perfect baby brother called Jake. They have gone to live with Maureen, who has fuzzy red hair like a halo, and a belly like Father Christmas. But the adults are speaking in low voices, and wearing Pretend faces. They are threatening to take Jake away and give him to strangers. Because Jake is white and Leon is not.
As Leon struggles to cope with his anger, certain things can still make him smile – like Curly Wurlys, riding his bike fast downhill, burying his hands deep in the soil, hanging out with Tufty (who reminds him of his dad), and stealing enough coins so that one day he can rescue Jake and his mum.
Evoking a Britain of the early eighties, My Name is Leon is a story of love, identity and learning to overcome unbearable loss. Of the fierce bond between sibilings. And how – just when we least expect it – we somehow manage to find our way home.
What a great way to start 2017! My Name is Leon was everything a book could be: emotional, funny, well written and delicately touching upon terribly difficult topics. Go read it now!
No, seriously… What are you still doing here? Go!
Oh well, since you’re still here, let me tell you why you should bother with this little gem of a book. Firstly, this book was highly original. I loved the fact that our protagonist is a biracial young boy whose family is so messed up he and his brother end up in foster care. This is a very sensitive topic, and one I actually rarely see represented in books. Yet somehow, the author managed to touch upon the issues faced by fostered children ever so lightly, truly helping the reader see the world from Leon’s point of view. I was touched by this little boy’s deep, deep love towards his mother and brother, I was amazed by his sense of responsibility and suffered his same frustration when his whole world collapsed.
Also, I loved the characters. Leon himself was incredibly well developed, growing and changing throughout the book. He is a real kid, with his problems, and his dreams. It was very interesting to get inside his little boy’s mind to witness first hand exactly how he lived through all the things that happened to him. Themes of discrimination, equality, children’s rights are delicately built in the story, so that it never feels like a lecture but still manages to get you thinking. The secondary characters were also very well developed, despite being seen only through Leon’s eyes.
Heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time, My Name is Leon is one book that, even in its simplicity, will capture you entirely. Perfect to cozy up with in the cold winter, preferably with a good cup of English tea to get you in the right mood.