‘Lay low and grow’
I have so far primarily posted about picture books and books for younger children, unsurprisingly because of the age that my children are (and also, if I am honest because they are a bit quicker to read!). But, it was always my aim to read and review books across all age ranges – from babies to Young Adults – and today I have an fantastic read to share, aimed at older children and beyond.
I was absolutely captivated by this story from the get go. Set in a dystopian world (perhaps at certain points in history not too dis-similar from our own), ‘Oy Yew’ is the story of little Oy. Living on the streets, and with a distinct lack of identity, he is captured and eventually sent to Duldred Hall. Here, he becomes a servant to the sinister Master Jeopardine, along with the other waifs that live there.
The motto of the waifs of Duldred Hall is ‘lay low and grow’. The only way to escape their life of drudgery is to reach the magical height of 5 thighs 10 oggits. However, Master Jeopardine is determined to feed them little and keep them small. When a spate of ‘accidents’ arise, the waifs begin to have their doubts about their Master’s intentions and together get the courage up to investigate and take destiny of their own fates, answering questions such as ‘What is kept in the Bone Room?’ and when Oy begins to present himself as being a bit different – ‘Who is he? and ‘Where did he really come from?’
From the very first sentence, you will be rooting for ‘Oy’ and willing him with all your might to succeed, thrive and ultimately survive. This is a beautiful story on so many levels. It was longlisted for the Times/Chicken House prize for children’s fiction and it is easy to see why. The characters have a touch of ‘Dickens’ about them. Master Jeopardine is as villanous as they come, a collector of rare bones, who’s interest in Oy takes a sinister turn when he discovers he may have something unique about him.There are polarties of rich and poor, master and servant, kindness and cruelty, strong and weak – many of which are questioned at every turn in the story. When the waifs learn to read and become educated they build in internal strength. The friendship between them is utterly heartwarming as they quite literally hold each other up until the last.
I loved the creation of ‘other worldliness’ that Ana Salote has conjured up. Plunger birds, gaol-tail otterines and snagging scorpits are just some of the creatures that appear throughout the book. Delicacies such as bubble pot, mistweed soup and snowcakes are concoted in the kitchen. The decadence of the Master’s surroundings, the clothes of the upper-class characters, the parlour, courtyards and library are all brought to life as are, in contrast, the sewers, drains and basement lodgings of the waifs.
The book is recommended for age 8+ and would certainly appeal to even older children and adults too. Don’t expect all the loose ends to get tied up at the end though! This is the first book of a trilogy and I absolutely cannot wait to read ‘Nondula’ the second in the series. If you are looking for a new series for your older child or even something different for yourself then I would thoroughly recommend picking this up off the shelf, it really is one to be discovered and I hope that you will enjoy reading it as much as I did. If anyone has read it, I’d love to know your thoughts too.
The author sent me the book to review but all opinions are my own.