Sometimes a little bit of hope can go a long way…

Moontrug loves a good book blurb and get this for the back of Lara Williamson’s debut book for 8-12s: “I’m Dan Hope, and deep inside my head I keep a list of things I want to come true. For example, I want my sister, Ninja Grace, to go to university at the North Pole and only come back once a year. I want to help Sherlock Holmes solve his most daring mystery yet. And if it could be a zombie mystery, all the more exciting. I want to be the first eleven-year-old to land on the moon. I want my dog to stop eating the planets and throwing them up on the carpet. And finally, the biggest dream of all, I want my Dad to love me.” WOW.

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A Boy Called Hope is a brilliantly funny and touching insight into the life of eleven-year-old Dan Hope – a character so awesomely cool he stays with you long after reading the last page… Since the day Dan’s Dad walked out (to be with Busty Babs), Dan has had to cope at home with just his Mum and sister. But when Dan flicks on the TV and sees his father presenting the news, a spark of hope kindles inside him: maybe, just maybe, he can win his father back. A pretty ENORMOUS task but if you’re as courageous and hopeful as Dan, you’ve got to give it a shot…

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The book is packed full of original characters. Take Jo, one of Dan’s friends at school, whose obsession with the saints (she makes rosary beads from the ‘tears of baby unicorns’!) is both endearing and brilliantly funny: ‘Jo admitted that Saint Francis of Assisi would have loved the hamster, even if it had a stupid name… Christopher said he wanted to know more about Jo’s saints and asked her to go through the alphabet, naming a saint for every letter. Jo thought about it for a moment and replied, “Is this a holy wind-up?”‘ And perhaps one of the loveliest expressions in the book comes from saint-loving Jo: ‘Feathers are angels’ calling cards. It means the dead person is up there and looking after you and they’re sending you a white feather to let you know that everything will be okay.’ Although Dan replies with, ‘Jo, I hate to break this to you, but feathers come from birds’ bums,’ perhaps by the end of the book he’ll have changed his mind…

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Dan’s reading of situations (or rather his mis-reading of situations) leads to some of the funniest moments in the book. And as he tips folic acid into the orange juice in an attempt to understand The Club, you can’t help but laugh: ‘I appear to have poisoned my mother.’ He’s a truly original protagonist and has something of Sam McQueen in him from Sally Nicholls’ wonderful Ways To Live Forever. At times he is amusingly eloquent (even if he realises he sounds ridiculous): ‘Okay, I’d better go now anyway because Mum is serving snails for dinner and I can’t be late’ and then at other times he’s just a young boy desperately missing his Dad: ‘Music puddles into the dark corners of my bedroom and I play until my fingers ache and I have to stop.’ The book captures so realistically the hugeness of emotions that go on inside children: their capacity for hope but also their need for love and attention.

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The plot bounds along with Dan offering up some of the best one-liners children’s books have to offer: ‘I AM HAPPY WITH MY BEHIND,’ ‘Nothing good can come of watching people in dressing gowns’ and ‘No good story has a main character called Graham’ but above all, Dan is absolutely endearing. There is often such a huge (and amusing) gap between his intentions and the actual outcome of events that you can’t help falling for him. In fact, Moontrug could spend hours and hours wandering around inside Dan’s mind – it’s full of magical things like sky lanterns, stars, zombies and rainbows – and hardly any common sense (proper Moontruggy stuff). A Boy Called Hope is a truly fantastic book and its message of hope and courage when life doesn’t pan out as planned is one of the strongest Moontrug has read in a long while. DEFINITELY worth a read and deserving of its place in Moontrug’s Altocumulus Tower. I mean, any book that teaches you to cycle an imaginary air bicycle through the stars is bound to win you over… That, and the dog called Charles Scallybones.