The Hairy Hands
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This issue’s cover is from a stunning new picture book, Mary’s Secret by David McKee (Andersen Press, 0 86264 909 9, £9.99). An ecological fable about doing without cars, McKee’s story with its bright pictures full of well observed detail is set within Mary’s cheerful family and at her school. His bold, painterly illustrations use the page so confidently and dextrously that their quirky, decorative perspectives seem entirely natural. Thanks to Andersen Press for their help in producing this September cover.
Exploring the theme of racism, mixed race partnerships, and tensions created between potential stepbrothers and sisters, Kemp, Carnegie Medal winner for her classic The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tiler, serves up a feast of a book in The Hairy Hands. The story is set against the background of a west country legend, yet the relationships which develop between the characters are as gripping as the ghostly hands from which the book gets its title. Jessica and Tom Fraser resent their dad's plans to remarry. For Tom especially, the thought of his footballing arch rival at school, Felix Patterson, becoming his stepbrother is hard to stomach. Racial differences complicate the issues as the Frasers are white and the Pattersons black. A Dartmoor holiday is planned in an effort to enable the children to get to know each other but the whole idea seems doomed to disaster as tensions between Tom and Felix threaten to drive a wedge between Mr Fraser and Mrs Patterson. Jessica is fascinated by the Hairy Hand legend and the reader is kept wondering whether the hands will intervene to destroy or deliver from evil this potential 'happy family'. This is a top class read; a tantalising tale of suspense, mystery and brilliantly observed family tensions, woven together with wonderful imagery and kept moving at a brisk pace.