Title: Lenny’s Book of Everything
Author: Karen Foxlee
Genre: Literary Fiction, Young Adult
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Published: 24th October 2018
Synopsis: Our mother had a dark heart feeling. Lenny’s younger brother has a rare form of gigantism and while Lenny’s fiercely protective, it isn’t always easy being the sister of ‘the giant’. A book about finding good in the bad that will break your heart while raising your spirits in the way that only a classic novel can.
Lenny, small and sharp, has a younger brother Davey who won’t stop growing – and at seven is as tall as a man. Raised by their mother, they have food and a roof over their heads, but not much else.
The bright spot every week is the arrival of the latest issue of the Burrell’s Build-It-at-Home Encyclopedia. Through the encyclopedia, Lenny and Davey experience the wonders of the world – beetles, birds, quasars, quartz – and dream about a life of freedom and adventure. But as Davey’s health deteriorates, Lenny realises that some wonders can’t be named.
A big-hearted novel about loving and letting go by an award-winning author.
‘Such a big heart and not a beat out of place.‘ – MELINA MARCHETTA
‘Tough, tender and beautiful.’ – GLENDA MILLARD
‘Unforgettable.’ – ANNA FIENBERG
‘Karen Foxlee, you’re a genius.‘ – WENDY ORR
Lenore Spink, known as Lenny, has a younger brother called Davey who won’t stop growing – by the age of seven, he is as tall as a man, and Lenny is often mistaken as his younger sister. They live with their mother, Cynthia, and Lenny dreams of her father, Peter Lenard Spink, returning one day. In all the years Davey has been alive, he hasn’t. When Davey has to go away for tests to see why he keeps growing, Lenny’s mother enters a competition to win a complete build it yourself encyclopaedia set from a company called Burrell’s – and so, Burrell’s Build-It-at-Home Encyclopedia becomes a crucial part in the way Lenny and Davey cope with life before, during and after Davey’s diagnosis, as they get each new set of entries for the alphabet and the covers to bind them together, creating a set on the shelf that they dip into, and re-read their favourite bits. Along for the ride with them is Davey’s imaginary pet golden eagle, Timothy, who goes everywhere with them, and will go with them when they run away to Canada to find Peter Lenard Spink. But when they find out how sick Davey is, all dreams of heading up north are quashed, and Lenny uses the Build-It-Yourself Encyclopaedia, and her attempts to find her father, and any other Spinks, to cope with what is happening, and find a way to understand it. With a touching, bittersweet ending, this book is filled with love, family and friendship.
This was a surprise arrival with my last Allen and Unwin package, and I immediately felt it was going to be good – the cover alone is charming and exquisite – originally die-cut to create the image that overlays the title, I found it inviting and intriguing – what could these mysterious maps mean? Each section is sign posted by a year, a growth spurt in Davey, and a letter entry for the encyclopaedia, connecting each event to a specific letter, and what that meant to Lenny and Davey over the years that spread across the book. This is a book that is not aimed at any one age group – it is universal in its scope and story – with aspects that we can all relate to and recognise in our own lives. We’ve all known the joy of knowledge, of receiving something in the post that we have either been waiting for or that comes as a pleasant surprise. The act of learning something new is an experience we have all had – and encountering our favourite books or topics.
We also, most of us, know the love of family and friends, the comings and goings of people in our lives, and the fragility of life and death, and the challenges that come with caring for someone with an illness or disability and how it impacts everyone in their lives – the challenges and sacrifices, that are made, as well as the love that is shared, and the sense of community that can come about, as they do for Lenny and her family.
This is a novel with a big heart, about a different kind of love than many novels explore – family love – a love that is just as important as romantic love and deserves more focus in the stories we consume. Lenny’s journey also involves accepting what is happening to her brother and is a catalyst for how she comes to understand the world around her.
This is a book with a big heart, that teaches us about love and letting go of those we love, and the strength it can take for this to happen, and the places we can draw it from. I enjoyed this book, it was one of those rare books that refuses to leave you long after closing the last page. It is one that can be enjoyed by many, and I hope it is, and I hope it is as powerful for other readers as it was for me,