This is a gorgeous romp of a book. Within pages, it flings its reader headfirst into a battle with a pirate ship and seldom lets up pace. Barkbelly introduced children to a wooden boy owing nothing to Pinocchio and everything to Cat Weatherill’s exuberant imagination. Its sequel, Snowbone, takes up the tale of the Ashenpeakers, a race of wooden people who hatch from eggs and can regrow limbs when injured. They are vulnerable to fire, but little else. However their very strength, together with the pouch of healing sap each possesses, make them attractive to the greedy race of men.
The story starts when fire on board a slavers’ ship causes stolen eggs to hatch. Paradoxically rescued by kindly pirates, the young tiddlins are left on the nearest inhabitable island, and find themselves in their homeland. Their feisty leader, Snowbone, is thrilled to find herself back on Ashenpeake, but forays into the island soon reveal all is not well: the Ancestors, ancient Ashenpeakers, who turn into trees at their Moving On, are being attacked by ruthless Sap-Collectors. And this is just the tip of the exploitation. Snowbone and her group of tiddlins vow revenge on the slavers who have devastated the ancestral clearing belonging to Figgis, a forest tinker.
Together with their friend, Manu, a royal boy washed on shore, the tiddlins have a range of gifts, including as yet undiscovered magical skills, but they are up against a ruthlessly organised criminal network.
The day-job is ‘storyteller’ for Cat Weatherill and her work reads as if she has steeped herself in the legends of many cultures, then given her inventions a thoroughly modern and anarchic twist all her own. Full of onomatopoeia, vivid similes and cliff-hanging chapter-breaks, Snowbone has all the immediacy of a performance and it will have young readers enthralled.