Books can give us a window into a different life or show us that we’re not alone. I had a pretty happy and comfortable childhood so it was books that showed me how other kids lived and some of the tough things that they have to live with. I think it’s hugely important for kids to read books about all sorts of kids so that they see the world from different points of view. Jo Cotterill’s new book, A Library of Lemons, gives us a window into Calypso’s life and the ways that her and her father deal with grief.
Calypso’s mum died a few years ago and her emotionally incompetent Dad can’t, or won’t, talk about Mum at all. Instead he throws himself into writing his book A History of the Lemon. Meanwhile the house is dusty, there’s never any food in the fridge, and Calypso retreats into her own world of books and fiction.
When a new girl, Mae, arrives at school, the girls’ shared love of reading and writing stories draws them together. Mae’s friendship and her lively and chaotic home – where people argue and hug each other – make Calypso feel more normal than she has for a long time. But when Calypso finally plucks up the courage to invite Mae over to her own house, the girls discover the truth about her dad and his magnum opus – and Calypso’s happiness starts to unravel.
A Library of Lemons is a beautiful, heart-breaking story about a family that has lost itself in books. Jo Cotterill has perfectly captured a love of reading and books. It’s almost like she has seen inside my head and my heart and put down on paper what it means to be a bibliophile. Jo makes you feel for her characters, especially Calypso and the situation that she finds herself in.
This is a story of grief and how we all cope with it in different ways. Both Calypso and her dad retreat into books, Calypso into her stories that take her far away and her dad into the book he is writing ‘A History of Lemons.’ Calypso misses her mum, who died five years ago, but her dad tells her to be strong and that they have ‘inner strength’ to get them through. Calypso’s dad puts everything into writing his book and often forgets to eat and provide what Calypso needs. When Calypso discovers what her father has been hiding in his library her anger and sadness comes exploding out of her and sets off a chain of events that will hopefully fix her broken family.
One of the things that Calypso holds on to is her mother’s books. She knows that she can still be connected to her if she reads the books that her mother did. This is one of my favourite quotes from the book:
‘Books give you more than stories. Books can give you back people you’ve lost.’
Anyone who reads this book will wish that they had a friend like Mae. Not only does she love books and writing like Calypso, but she is always there when Calypso needs her. She absolutely trusts Mae and confides in her about how she is feeling and the situation at home. Mae listens to Calypso and gets her mother’s help when she knows they need it.
The ending of the book is perfect. It shows readers that there is no quick fix to the pain and grief that children and adults face, but over time, things will get better. It feels very real rather than rose-tinted.
A Library of Lemons is perfect for anyone aged 9 and up who enjoys stories about families and friendship. If you love books as much as I do you need to read it too because you’ll see a bit of yourself in Calypso.