Review Blog

Nov 30 2009

Running on the cracks by Julia Donaldson

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Egmont, London,2009. ISBN 9781405222334.
(Ages 12+) Two lives collide in this unusual story set in Glasgow. With the combined themes of homelessness, pedophilia, immigration and truanting, the targeted audience will immediately feel at home with the tale. Leo has been sent to live with her aunt and uncle after the deaths of her parents. Here she feels out of place, especially when she wakes to find her uncle standing by her bed. Finlay, on the other hand comes from a loving family, but they are dispirited with his school performance and truanting.
Finlay sees Leo as she tries to steal donuts from the van where he works. Giving chase, he loses her, and returning to the van, finds that money has been taken while he was away and so he loses his job. Seeing an article in the paper about her, he rings the police, but running into her again, and hearing her story, he decides to help her hide from her family and find her grandparents who live in Glasgow but have never seen her.
Using the telephone book is a great scheme, but as her name is Chan, the vetting of each person listed is long and tedious. All the while Finlay must keep her hidden and keep her fed and clothed, help her look for her relatives. It's a big ask for a young man out of sorts with his parents who are watching his every move.
Some resolution occurs at the end of the story but I wanted more, and I can see lower secondary students loving it and talking about how things could be resolved. The novel's setting is brilliantly realised and the characters well drawn.
Fran Knight

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