Earlier this month, ALWAYS in the MIDDLE took part in the Book Blast giveaway for this new title. Since then I’ve had the time to read the story and can give you a few critical insights. First though, here’s the plot:
The Hideaway tells the story of Billy McKenna, a boy who runs away from a difficult situation at home and takes refuge in an overgrown graveyard to deal with his mixed-up emotions. There, Billy meets an elderly man who tends the graves in preparation for All Souls’ Eve, and ultimately witnesses the magical events that come to pass on that spooky night.
Interwoven in Billy’s supernatural story is the all-too-realistic tale of his mother’s situation at home and the police search for Billy. With themes of family and childhood, separation and reunion, domestic violence and doing the right thing, this is an important and beautiful book for middle graders through adults
The third person narration takes you through 44 mostly short chapters. They alternate with the majority of the chapters focusing on either Billy, his Mom, or Sergeant Chorley, who is investigating the family situation. The sad but hopeful tale will feel to close to home for many young readers and their parents.
Set in Great Britain, Billy is a smart 13-year-old who knows he must escape the fear he has whenever Jeff and his mom are having loud arguments. He believes the graveyard provides the perfect hiding place, but that backfires when two people discover where he’s hiding. One is a kindly old cemetery worker who cleans the headstones. He misses his late wife and own son who ran away. Then there is Izzie, a classmate who promises not to tell anyone about Billy’s whereabouts.
The black and white drawings throughout add to the emotional appeal of the story.
They stray into graphic novel territory toward the end when a series of double page images depict the events of the supernatural All Souls’ Eve.
The topic of domestic violence is covered in a realistic way and is just right for the 5th grade and up audience. Your heart goes out to Billy. Much discussion can take place with the themes resonating from the pages. I did kind of shake my head toward the end as an all too convenient connection is revealed about the characters. But it doesn’t detract from the compelling and thoughtful way THE HIDEAWAY is presented.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Pam Smy studied Illustration at Cambridge School of Art, where she now lectures part-time. Pam has illustrated books by Conan Doyle, Julia Donaldson, and Kathy Henderson, among others. Her first novel, Thornhill, was a critical and commercial success, shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, the UKLA Book Awards, the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal 2018, and winning the 2018 British Book Design & Production Award for Graphic Novels.
Blogging about middle grade books or authors next week? Join the celebration.