When eight-year-old Sophie becomes suddenly ill, the whole family feels the stress. She has had a stroke, something which happens to only one in 50,000 children. Her 12-year-old brother Tom thinks that somehow this could be his fault and the structure of the family begins to crack. The Willow Man, the giant structure made from branches that they can see from their windows, is almost another character in the story, as if at any moment he could help the children in some way.
There is a way of describing this story that could make it sound corny and sentimental and there are a number of tried and tested plot devices: the disabled child who recovers from her illness and pushes the wheelchair away to walk again; the new friend, a boy from the council estate with a dad who’s done time; the ending where an unhappy child runs away to a place with good memories and is rescued by people who care. But there is more to the story than this. It’s a complex and engaging read that will keep the reader going until the end. The Willow Man, burned by unknown vandals and then re-built, is a symbol of power and hope.