Seven for a Secret
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Ruby lives in the city and Grampa in the country, but through their letters they share a warm and intense relationship. Grampa tells Ruby about the magpies in his garden and also about the magpie song – ‘one for sorrow, two for joy’, etc., and their lives become parallel with the song. ‘Three for a girl’ is Ruby herself, and four magpies appear when her baby brother is born. One magpie visits Ruby on the morning that she learns Grampa has died and Grampa has told Ruby of a seven-magpie ‘secret never to be told’. This is that he has been ‘hiding shiny things’, all of which will some day be hers. After his death, Ruby finds his treasure in the hollow magpie tree, thus enabling her family to leave their money problems and dismal inner city high-rise flat and move to Grampa’s house in the country. There is a mystical, almost fey, element to this story, along with a lyricism that makes it memorable. The gentle, autumnal watercolour illustrations reflect perfectly the poignant interwoven text, Grampa’s growing weakness, and Ruby’s sadness, and the end pages with post-people carrying the letters in town and country are a delight. A four-page fold out at the end reveals Ruby’s family with the treasure – and there are two joyful magpies in the tree. Magic! ES