All sorts of things grow in the most unexpected ways in Caryl Lewis’s story, and if readers don’t see gardening as something slightly magical when they pick up the book, they will by the time they reach the end.
Marty values the evenings he spends with his grandad on his allotment. Since his father left, when Marty was just four, his mother has struggled with her mental health. She now doesn’t leave the house, and her hoarding disorder means that their home is filled with bags of rubbish, broken appliances, and piles of old papers. Marty is the target of school bullies who recognise his misery and privation. A birthday present from his grandad of a seed changes everything. Magic-bean like, it grows and grows until it’s big enough for Grandad and Marty to sail away in it to Paris, and back (almost). Lewis manages the switch from reality to fairy story with conviction and skill and readers will have no trouble in accepting the turn the story takes. Also with them in that Channel crossing is Gracie, Marty’s newly acquired friend and a girl with family problems of her own. Their friendship grows almost as quickly and magically as the seed, and so do other things: Marty’s confidence, his hope for the future, even his mum’s ability to make changes in their life. Caryl Lewis has said that she wants her book to uplift children who are feeling world-weary, reminding them that the world is full of wonders and that they themselves are capable of achieving anything. Beautifully written, daring in its ambition, I’d say her book does just that.