Little Bits of Sky ISBN: 9780857633996
Published by Nosy Crow Ltd, 2016
Ira and Zac are 'care children'. They have lived in foster homes all their young lives. Sister and Brother, they have always wanted to stay together, and while they can't remember anything about their parents, they have one picture of the two of them, Ira at about two years old and Zac as a baby. Between them is a black dog. There is a starkness about this picture - very important to them both - which is both moving and sad. The book begins with Ira looking-back as an adult to their life in the children's home, Skilly House, in the late 1980s. Having been abruptly removed from the most recent foster parents, they are taken to the run down, dilapidated house where they really don't want to be. Zac can be difficult and somewhat over-active, and Ira protects him and understands his ways very well. The greeting they have at the house is wonderfully warm, and they find themselves engulfed by Hortense and Silas who run the home. Mrs Clanks, the manager, is less friendly, and Ira takes an instant dislike to her. However, the house, while tatty, is a lovable place, and the two children are soon part of a motley crew of children who live there. The novel, told in the first person by Ira in the form of her diary, is full of descriptions of the other children, their problems and the frequency with which they come and go. The first night the two children are there, the massive 1987 storm comes along and flattens a huge tree in the garden, and this is one of several actual happenings that ground the story in real life. Ira and Zac are quite happy at Skilly House, although their feelings of being 'in care' are often to the fore, and Ira's expressions of these are full and remarkably honest. Hortense and Silas are loving people who really do care for the children they are looking after, but Ira can't help wanting a home that will be just for them and will have its own front door. After a year and a half at the children's home, they are told by the enigmatic Mrs Clanks that they are to have a holiday with a lady who lives in the country, whose name is Martha. This is a wholly new experience for the two children, and they are at first wary. However, after a few false starts, Martha proves to be an understanding and lovely lady, who has never had children of her own, but is willing to learn. The holiday is a great success, and Martha, who is an artist, helps Ira begin to enjoy her own real talent as a painter. There are other happy holidays with Martha, but because of a tragedy caused by Zac's over-active imagination and his determination to find their mother, the children come to believe that they have ruined forever their lovely holiday place. Gladly, there is a happy ending for these two waifs: 'It was as though there were two child-shaped holes waiting to be filled, and we fitted them perfectly.' Beautifully written and deeply moving, this novel is a real story about what being in care really means and how it feels. Absorbing and superb.