21st Century
The Future
World Travel
Books & Film
Original Fiction
Opinion & Lifestyle
Politics & Living
Film Space
Movies in depth
Kid's Books
Reviews & stories

The International Writers Magazine: Kids Books

Heaven's Eyes by David Almond
Hodder Children’s Books
ISBN: 9780340944974
Holly Bates Review

This mysterious and intriguing tale of "damaged child" Erin Law’s adventures with her friends is haunting and fantastically original. You simply can’t help but be sucked right into the heart of this story, it grips you from the very beginning, daring you not to believe what you are about to read: "Some people will tell you none of these things happened. They’ll say they were just a dream the three of us shared. But they did happen." Erin Law’s bold yet deeply thought provoking voice narrates her escape from the orphanage with best friends January Carr and Mouse Gullane.

Three orphans; labelled "damaged" by their leader Maureen, but who rebel against this insulting description. Making a break for it one night, they brave the wild river on a homemade raft, sailing away to freedom. After becoming stuck in thick mud, they meet the weird and wonderful Heaven Eyes who claims to have come from the mud; saved by the wary, secretive man she calls Grampa. She is a captivating character; full hope and happiness despite the bleak surroundings of the Black Middens.

This book has a very haunting and surreal nature; it is a perplexing tale; at times you’re not sure where on earth it will lead you. The dark, dilapidated factories and thick mud surrounding them provide a bleak backdrop, as does the depressing confinement of Whitegates, the orphanage. You almost imagine Heaven Eyes to be a beacon of light amongst all dreary and desolate landscapes. The story has a very dream like quality; the mystery of who Heaven Eyes is and the outlandish images of souls leaving bodies and Erin’s mother talking to her from beyond the grave leave a surreal and mystifying taste in the mouth. However, these perplexing moments of uncertainty at where the story is going are one of the story’s most brilliant qualities; it only serves to heighten the intrigue of the story.

Almond encourages us to embrace the uncertainties and relish the contrasts he delivers: the light and dark; what is real and what is fantasy; how these children can be ‘damaged’ but happy at the same time. The book tackles some deep issues, these children struggle with their identities and where they fit into the world around them; but these unfold in a subtle manner not spoiled by over-sentimentality. The harsh reality of an orphan child suffocating in a children’s home contrasts starkly with the surreal world of eating old chocolate and corned beef and patrolling for ‘ghosts’ by day and digging for treasure by night. We are always aware that Erin is an orphan, but she is ultimately a happy and well centred child; she stands up to Maureen’s insensitive treatment, and takes Heaven Eyes under her wing, accepting the role as her "lovely sister".

David Almond has crafted a spellbinding story of a child finding her own way in the world, away from people telling her that she is damaged and needs help. Erin wants to find her own way, and that she does. The short, sharp sentences tumble and flow like the river she sails down, bringing an urgent breathlessness to the story. In a way, it feels like an old folk story passed down through the years: ‘did I ever tell you the one about the time I sailed off in a raft with my friends…’

At the very beginning, Erin boldly declares that, despite what others may state, everything she is about to tell is true. After reluctantly putting this book down, I have the uncanny feeling that possibly, quite possibly, it just could have been.
© Holly Bates December 21st 2007
holly bates <

Holly is a graduate of the Creative Writing Degree at the University of Portsmouth and currently a bookseller

More Kids Books Reviews


© Hackwriters 1999-2008 all rights reserved - all comments are the writers' own responsibiltiy - no liability accepted by or affiliates.