Moontrug spotted the cover first: an enormous gargoyle set against a star-pricked sky, looking down on a boy with his dog. And she knew then that this book was going to be good.
When ten-year-old Liam moves house to be closer to his dementia-suffering grandma, he’s thrown into an unfamiliar place, with a family that seems to be falling apart. Liam doesn’t remember what his grandma was like before she became ill. He only knows the witch-like old woman who snaps and snarls and eats her birthday cards. He wants to fix it, but he can’t. Walking his dog one day, Liam discovers an old stone gargoyle in a rundown church, and his life changes in impossible ways. The gargoyle is alive. It moves unseen in the night, acting out Liam’s stories. And stories can be dangerous things… Seeking revenge against the bullies at his new school, Liam tells a story about the gargoyle attacking them. When one of them ends up in hospital, a regretful Liam vows never to go near the gargoyle again. But his grandma’s illness is getting worse, his mum isn’t coping, and his sister is skipping school… What if the gargoyle is the only thing that can save Liam’s family?
Even from the first page, the magic of the story is turning: ‘It starts at night… A huge shadow in the darkness, a flash of gleaming gold. It sweeps across the garden and blends with the trees, then flies off towards the rundown church.’ Moontrug was reminded of the opening to Patrick Ness’ book, A Monster Calls, where an ancient monster, not unlike Stonebird, visits a boy as damaged and vulnerable as Liam. Moontrug has always felt that gargoyles are magical and Revell presents Stonebird’s otherworldly character in a very real way. But the gargoyle’s power is wrapped up in the power of story-telling – and as Liam discovers, there is much more to stories than he had at first believed.
Liam is a wonderful character and Revell perfectly captures his fractured life, where bullies torment him at school and his mother is falling apart at home. There is something adorable about him – maybe it’s the way he mutters ‘orange penguins’ over and over again to try and take his mind off frightening things or the way he realises he’s Spoiled The Mood for his older sister and her new boyfriend. But it is when Liam holds Mrs Culpepper’s egg and imagines the enormity of the question ‘What If’ that the story really takes flight. Because within ‘What If’ Liam has the power of stories on his side, the power of an ancient gargoyle, Stonebird, to help make things right. But can ‘two kids and an egg and a whole lot of luck’ make a difference? Stonebird is a beautiful story for 8+ years, full of hope and magic, where teachers aren’t just there to drum the curriculum into you – they’re there to open your eyes, strengthen your soul and give you hope for the journey ahead – and gargoyles aren’t just forgotten lumps of stone – they’re guardians watching over you with the power to make things good.