The Land of Neverendings ISBN: 9780571310845
Published by Faber & Faber, 2017
'When Holly died, Bluey suddenly fell silent and all the lights went out in Smockeroon...Emily had grown up saying, ''My sister is disabled', and now she had to get used to saying, ''My sister is dead.'' Bluey was Holly's teddy, and Emily had always told stories about Bluey to Holly - about him in a magic land of toys called Smockeroon. Holly loved the stories, and while she could never speak, could hardly see, and was dependent on her family for everything, she could laugh, and Emily was very close to her. When Holly dies suddenly of a seizure, and mum puts Bluey in the coffin with her, Emily is terribly sad even though she knows the toy should be with Holly. She starts a book to remind her about Bluey and the stories she has made up because she doesn't want to forget either Bluey or Holly, and she's afraid she might. Emily's life is even more complicated by the fact that she can't seem to talk to her sad parents, and also she has just started secondary school and her best friend Maze has begun acting very strange, not wanting to be with her and going around with another girl. Emily is not happy, but resents the counsellor at school trying to help. Into this sad situation comes Ruth, an adult friend of her mum's who has agreed to look after Emily after school on two afternoons a week. A lovely, cuddly older lady, Ruth proves to be a real friend in some very unexpected ways. She has lost a son, Daniel, at nineteen and understands very well what Emily is going through. Then some strange things begin to happen. Toys appear, two of which were stuffed toys of Daniel's when he was a boy, a penguin and a bear called Hugo and Smiffy, and they can talk. They have come from Smackeroon where all the old toys live and can play with their owners who have died. But they are not supposed to be able to get back into the 'Hardside', ie the real world. A horrid toad has invaded their idyllic life, and things are going wrong in Smackeroon, and the only toy who can help is called the Sturvey and he has gone missing. The adventures of Emily and Ruth, who also knows about the other world because of Daniel, are wonderfully imagined, and as imagination is what this is all about, we are soon enmeshed in an exciting adventure. The many different toys are wonderfully depicted, very funny unusual in what they do, and there is also much about 'Hardside' and what is going on in Emily's real life. Two of her friends get involved with the Smackeroon toys too, and in a wonderful denouement in London's Museum of Childhood, all is revealed and the nasty toad is finished. Emily is Alice in 'Alice in Wonderland' in a play at school, and there is much about this story that has a whiff of Alice and her adventures. When Ruth told stories to Daniel about Hugo and Smiffy, their special country was called 'The Land of Neverendings', so whatever you call it, it is a place where toys can meet and play with the people who loved them. At the end, Emily meets Sturvey in Smackeroon, who shows her Bluey across the river waving at her, but says that she can't see Holly as she wants so much to do because Holly is 'already with you, deep in your deepest heart. Humans die, but love never dies. And neither do stories.' This other world of toys and humans who have died is powered by imagination, and as long as stories are imagined, the toys and their people will live in Smackeroon. Deeply moving, brilliantly written,often very funny, and highly satisfying, this novel will help assuage the grief and unhappiness of children who have lost a close sibling. It also gives hope at the end in a very special way.