An eleven-year-old girl named Olivia–though everyone calls her Livy–flies into Melbourne from where she lives in Massachusetts, which is a place I spelled wrong the first time I typed it just now. Livy has flown in with her mother and her baby sister, Beth Ann, to visit her grandmother in country Victoria for the first time in five years. Gran hopes that Livy remembers the great time she had last time she was here, but truthfully, Livy can’t remember anything much, except that there was a wrong chicken, and that she suddenly feels, very strongly, that she has to go look in the cupboard of the bedroom that she slept in. And it turns out that there is something inside that cupboard–or someone–and his name is Bob and he is not feeling very happy after five-year-old Livy told him to wait there for her, because he has been stuck there for all those years with just Lego and a dictionary and these memories. Memories that even now Livy is having trouble remembering, even after opening a cupboard door and seeing a green creature half her size who may or may not be a zombie but is definitely wearing a chicken suit and definitely, absolutely about to make this trip a bit more interesting.
I read a book by Rebecca Stead a few years ago called When You Reach Me, which is about time travel and mysterious letters and was really very excellent. This is the same type of book–magic realism, set in the real world but with some prettttty magical stuff going on–and she is great at mysterious where you start out having no idea what’s happening (what? small green zombie/not-zombie? one eyebrow? chicken suit???) and then slowly piece everything together. This is co-written by Stead and Wendy Mass, and there are some very beautiful soft illustrations by Nicholas Gannon inside too, just enough to give you an idea about what Bob looks like but not quite enough to be completely sure about what Bob looks like. All I know is that it was great, and I read it in almost no time at all, and had a bit of a cry at the end (surprising no one), and that I will be looking at chickens much more closely from now on.
Rebecca Stead is one of those authors I’ve always intended to read but haven’t gotten round to yet. This review is prompting me to finally pick one up!