Books & Literature

Book Review: Magrit, by Lee Battersby

An award-winning, evocative book for younger readers about a 10 year old girl who finds a baby and decides to raise it.

A delightful fantasy for the younger reader set in a graveyard.

Lee Battersby is a West Australian author of science fiction, fantasy and horror. He has won several awards for writers in these categories.

This short novel was originally published in 2016 and has been re-released. It is an atmospheric story written in the third person about a nearly 10-year-old girl called Magrit. She lives in an abandoned cemetery, surrounded on all sides by apartment buildings with rats and insects as friends. Her only other friend is Master Puppet, an advisor of sorts built out of bones and junk from the cemetery. He sits on top of the crumbling chapel, tied to the cross. He is, in essence, her conscience.

One day, a stork flying overhead drops a baby into the cemetery. What is to be done? How can a nearly 10-year-old look after a new born baby? Master Puppet certainly has his point of view but Magrit ignores his advice and sets about looking after the child. A baby needs to be fed and he also needs a name. Magrit decides to call him by the first two things that touch him. Hence, we have Bugrat.

Dotted throughout the book there is black and white artwork by Amy Daoud. It doesn’t sit next to the story, it is part of the story and beautifully adds to the atmosphere.

This is a gentle story about accepting the truth about yourself: who you are, your relationship with the world around you, and those in your world.

As an adult I found myself mistakenly trying to make sense of the narrative. I began questioning the flaws. But children have the ability to sit back and accept a premise and use their imagination to just enjoy the story.

Magrit has an unexpected twist at the end and I wanted to re-read the story to see it in a different light with this new piece of information. It is a story which can be read several times, even knowing how it ends, because you would see each encounter in a new light.

Magrit has an ethereal, gothic quality to it and I had the sense I was part of a Tim Burton movie.

This book is easy to read and would be a great introduction to a new genre for middle years children.

Reviewed by Sue Mauger

Distributed by:Walker Books Australia
Released: March 2016, releases March 2019
RRP: $14.99

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