My Brother’s Shadow by Tom Avery

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Illustrated by Kate Grove.

Published by Andersen Press, 2014.

A moving depiction of grief and healing; I read this book in two sittings. My Brother’s Shadow is told from the perspective of ten year old Kaia who is struggling to come to terms with the death of her older brother. She has become frozen in her grief and frozen in the past (the day she discovered her brother’s blood-soaked body).

As she withdraws into herself, Kaia gets regarded as a freak by her classmates and she becomes more and more isolated, losing friends and falling victim to bullies. Solace arrives in the form of a new boy at school – a wild, silent child whom Kaia befriends. And so begins Kaia’s recovery because, ultimately, this is a novel of hope and re-birth.

The book is suitable for older or more mature children as it deals with difficult issues – grief, suicide and alcohol abuse – but they are portrayed appropriately and lend the story a gravitas and poignancy.

What I particularly like about this book are the believable relationships, both within a family and a school setting. Some of the most touching and heartbreaking scenes are between Kaia and her mother. The classroom dynamics are very realistic and honest too (Tom Avery used to be a teacher).

The story is wonderfully written and there is a stark beauty in Tom Avery’s prose. The text is accompanied by Kate Grove’s atmospheric black and white illustrations. Her use of silhouettes, light and shade perfectly echo the shadow of the title.

Rating: 💙💙💙💙💙

Suitable for children aged 10+

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