cover image INSIDE GRANDAD


Peter Dickinson, . . Random/Lamb, $15.95 (128pp) ISBN 978-0-385-74641-0

Magic hovers just beneath the surface of Dickinson's (The Ropemaker ) lyrical tale. Grandad is young Gavin's dear friend and confidante —his father is away at sea, his mother and grandmother are too often at work. The boy and his grandfather spend their days together fishing along the shores of their Scotland home. A skilled maker of model boats, Grandad is nearly finished building one for Gavin when a stroke renders him silent and motionless in a hospital bed. For Gavin, the fact that Grandad suffered the stroke while he was talking about the fabled "selkies" (a race of half-seal/half-men who sometimes come onto dry land to walk among us) is more than a coincidence. In a powerful scene, Gavin offers up an enormous sacrifice to the selkies if they will "please, please help me get Grandad back." While such a summary suggests a fantasy, the author remains more concerned with the quieter moments and emotions that define the characters' tender relationships. His depiction of the silent pain of one who sits bedside in a hospital, hour after hour, with only the most tenuous strands of hope, is heartbreaking. The road to the hopeful but honest conclusion is thoughtful but never maudlin, and the insights the author offers will linger long after journey's end. Ages 9-12. (Feb.)