Back to Blackbrick

Back to Blackbrick

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by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald
     
 

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Cosmo must journey to the past to understand his future in this humorous, heartbreaking, and brilliantly original debut novel.

Cosmo’s granddad used to be the cleverest person he ever knew. That is, until his granddad’s mind began to fail. In a rare moment of clarity, his granddad gives Cosmo a key and pleads with Cosmo to go to the SouthSee more details below

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Overview

Cosmo must journey to the past to understand his future in this humorous, heartbreaking, and brilliantly original debut novel.

Cosmo’s granddad used to be the cleverest person he ever knew. That is, until his granddad’s mind began to fail. In a rare moment of clarity, his granddad gives Cosmo a key and pleads with Cosmo to go to the South Gates of Blackbrick Abbey, where his granddad promises an “answer to everything.” In the dead of night, Cosmo does just that.

When Cosmo unlocks the rusty old gates, he is whisked back to Blackbrick of years past, along with his granddad—now just sixteen-years old and sharp as a tack—beautiful Maggie, and the absolutely dreadful Corporamore family. But much more than time travel adventure awaits Cosmo on the old, sprawling estate: he’ll also discover revealing truths about his granddad, his family, and himself.

Abounding with humor and heart, this extraordinary novel is an original, unforgettable story about lost memories, lost times, and lost lives, reclaimed.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Judy Crowder
Young Cosmo has a lot to deal with. His father is out of his life. His brother, Brian, died when he fell from a high window, his grief-stricken mother, hoping new surroundings would help her deal with tragedy, moved to Sydney, leaving Cosmo to live with his ancient grandparents. At first it is not so bad: "Some people think it would be depressing and miserable to live with someone as old as my grandparents—all ticking clocks and hot chocolate and radio quizzes. But it was not like that at all. Mostly it was excellent." Especially when Grandfather gets Cosmo a horse that he names John. All's well, at first, since Cosmo loves and admires his clever grandfather more that anyone. But Grandfather shows signs of Alzheimer's and stress creeps back into Cosmo's life: "Tragedy isn't the thing that makes the world a stressful place. It is the chance of tragedy that makes it stressful and I guess that's what's tormenting me. Constantly worrying about losing the things I needed most—it's exhausting." During a lucid moment, Grandfather hands Cosmo a key and urges him to go to the south gates of Blackbrick Manor. Cosmo unlocks those gates and encounters Kevin—his grandfather at age sixteen—and joins him working for the dreadful Corporamore family. He also meets the delightful Maggie, who he believes to be his young grandmother-to-be. But in the middle of this grand adventure, worry sets in. Can he get back to his own time and save Grandfather from going into a home? He does give Kevin his key for safekeeping and enacts his promise to never, ever let Brian near a window in the future. Finally Cosmo does get out and home. Grandfather is still there and his mother is home from Sydney. All is well—or is it? Where is Brian? This is a wonderfully written book by an author who has experienced Alzheimer's first hand. Reviewer: Judy Crowder
School Library Journal
10/01/2013
Gr 5–8—Cosmo is not happy with his name, his mother, or the fact no one seems to be listening to his advice about how to help Granddad Kevin remember important things, such as the fact that Cosmo's brother is dead. Granny Deedee is overwhelmed by the social workers who are taking an interest in Granddad, and Cosmo's mother is away long term to pursue business in Sydney. This means that the boy isn't getting a lot of attention from anyone but the bullies on the playground. One night, Granddad Kevin advises Cosmo to go to Blackbrick Abbey and open a gate with a special key he gives him. Cosmo follows his instructions and inadvertently time travels back to when Granddad was just 16-year-old Kevin and worked as a stable boy for the wealthy but stingy owner of the Abbey. Not long after his arrival, Cosmo helps Kevin sneak a beautiful young woman into the Abbey. While Cosmo is sure from the love-stricken look on Kevin's face that this is Grandma, her name turns out to be Maggie, which means he has to intervene to ensure his existence. Adventures and contretemps ensue, making for a rollicking ride. Cosmo's fresh and sassy approach to life is true to his youthful perspective. His age is left intentionally vague (as is what happened to his father), and his voice engages. The solidly constructed time-travel plot adds to the fun.—Carol A. Edwards, Denver Public Library, CO
Publishers Weekly
With Cosmo’s mother off in Australia, he’s living with his grandparents, and although that might sound depressing—all “ticking clocks and hot chocolate and radio quizzes”—Cosmo is enjoying himself. However, his grandfather’s memory is worsening (for one thing, he keeps forgetting that Cosmo’s brother is dead), and there’s talk of sending him to a nursing home and having Cosmo live with his uncle. Then Cosmo’s grandfather hands him the key to Blackbrick Abbey; when Cosmo opens the gate, he meets the abbey’s stable boy—none other than his grandfather, at age 16. Though Cosmo is thrilled to meet him, the past is more complicated than he expects. Older readers will see some of the plot twists coming, but debut author Fitzgerald adeptly conveys Cosmo’s love for his grandfather and his fury at the way arrangements are being made all around him; Cosmo’s distinctively Irish speech is another strong point. Watching Cosmo learn what can and can’t be fixed makes for a strong story that’s less about time travel than about love and memory. Ages 10–14. Agent: Clare Conville, Conville & Walsh. (Sept.)
BCCB
“The book is a thoughtful blend of time travel adventure and family drama, and Cosmo’s voice balances wry humor with deeply felt angst over his grandfather’s illness Fans of gentle fantasies and readers with relatives suffering similar physical challenges will find Cosmo a worthwhile companion.”
From the Publisher
"Original and compelling, this is a beautifully written novel about love, loss, history and memory. Wonderful storytelling."

"This beautiful novel is deceptively easy to read; the story rattles along while dealing sensitively with issues of love, loss, illness and memory. It’s a moving and poignant story, but there are funny moments, too. Back to Blackbrick is an impressive debut novel that already feels like a classic."

The Bookseller (UK)
"Original and compelling, this is a beautifully written novel about love, loss, history and memory. Wonderful storytelling."
welovebooks.com
"This beautiful novel is deceptively easy to read; the story rattles along while dealing sensitively with issues of love, loss, illness and memory. It’s a moving and poignant story, but there are funny moments, too. Back to Blackbrick is an impressive debut novel that already feels like a classic."
Kirkus Reviews
A trip to the past reveals family secrets and tragedies that help an Irish lad adjust to sad events in the present. Cosmo's brother, Brian, has recently died, his beloved grandfather Kevin is descending into dementia, his distraught mother has fled to Sydney in response, and his adored horse has been sent away. On a visit to nearby Blackbrick Abbey, he suddenly finds himself back in the 1940s, where he tries to impress the then–16-year-old Kevin with the importance of keeping both Brian and his powers of memory alive in years to come. He also helps Kevin to smuggle beautiful young Maggie onto the estate, but as Maggie proves less interested in Kevin than in the estate's owner, the plot takes a soapy turn with an illegitimate child who turns out not to be the only one in the story. (Fitzgerald is coy about the sex, leaving Cosmo to puzzle over a character's claim that Maggie is "unchased.") Back in his own time, the discovery of hitherto-unknown family connections, along with the returns of his horse and his repentant mother, begins to buoy Cosmo. There's far too much going on, but the author does thread Cosmo's narrative with helpful precepts such as, "If you let the past determine your future, you're probably screwed." The inexpertly juggled overabundance of storylines and themes makes this one to skip. (Time-travel fantasy. 11-13)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781442481572
Publisher:
Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication date:
09/03/2013
Sold by:
SIMON & SCHUSTER
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
208
Sales rank:
391,956
File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Related Subjects

Read an Excerpt

Back to Blackbrick

Chapter 1


MY GRANDDAD was pretty much the cleverest person I ever met, so it was strange in the end to see the way people treated him—as if he was a complete moron. We were waiting for a train one day, not bothering anyone, when this boy said to me, “Hey. Hey you. What’s wrong with the old man?”

In fairness, my granddad did happen to be in the middle of quite a long conversation with a lamppost. But still, it didn’t give the boy the right to be so nosy.

I walked a bit closer to the boy, and I whispered:

“He suffers from a rare condition that makes him randomly violent to anyone who asks stupid questions about people they’ve never met.”

That very same week me and Granddad saw this program all about how Albert Einstein was always looking for his keys and wearing odd shoes and not brushing his hair for weeks on end.

“See, Granddad?” I said to him. “Einstein was exactly the same as you are. And no one ever thought there was anything wrong with his brain.”

“No one except for his teachers, who apparently thought he was an imbecile,” my granddad replied.

The next day he asked me where the toilet was. And the day after that he looked at me suddenly and he said, “Maggie, Maggie, what’s the plan of action now? When are we all going home?” which was kind of confusing, seeing as there was no plan of action, and seeing as we already were at home. And also seeing as my name is not Maggie.

My name is Cosmo. When I’m a legal adult, I’m going to change it by deed poll. I’ve checked it out, and it’s fairly straightforward.

The first time Granddad peed in the dishwasher was when me and my gran realized we were going to have to make a few changes. For one thing, we got into the habit of putting the superhot cycle on twice.

He began to repeat things over and over, and I knew that there was definitely something wrong, because he hadn’t usually been a repetitive sort of guy. It got to be pretty annoying. He began to forget the kinds of things that you’d never imagine anyone could forget, like for example that my brother, Brian, was dead, even though by then he’d been dead for quite a while. Granddad got this idea that Brian was actually in the kitchen, completely alive, and ready to make cups of tea for anyone who shouted at him.

“BRIAN! BRIAN!” he’d yell. “DO US A FAVOR LIKE A GOOD FELLOW, AND BRING US A CUP OF TEA!”

So then I’d usually have to go off and make the stupid tea. Granddad always said, “Ah, fantastic,” right after he took the first sip, as if drinking a cup of tea was the best thing ever.

When he started to get up in the middle of the night and wander around the house, poking about and searching in drawers and stuff, me and my gran kept having to follow him. We’d have to think of quite clever ways to convince him to go back to bed, which usually took ages. He’d sometimes have gone out into the garden before we’d even woken up, and we’d run out to him where he stood shivering, thin and empty. Like a shadow.

I’d say, “Granddad, what are you doing out here in the dark like this?” And he’d say, “I don’t know really. I used to love the dark.”

And after that my gran would sit with him as if he was the one who needed to be comforted, even though it was me who’d been woken up in the middle of the night. He would say, “Oh, my girl,” in a way that made it sound like Granny Deedee was someone quite young, which obviously she isn’t. And she’d look down at his hands and stroke them and she’d tell him how beautiful they were.

Don’t get me wrong—I mean, you could say a lot of nice things about my granddad, because he was a great guy and everything—but I really don’t think you could say his hands were beautiful. For one thing, they were old and brown and bent like the roots of a tree. And for another thing, instead of an index finger he had a kind of stump on his right hand that only went as far as his first knuckle. It wasn’t that noticeable except when he was trying to point at something.

Whenever I asked him what happened to that finger, he would look down and his eyes would go all round and he would say, “Good God! My finger. It’s missing! Assemble a search party!”

It was kind of a joke that me and him had before he got sick. Nobody else got it.

I tried to talk to my gran about Granddad’s memory, but she pretended it really wasn’t that big a deal. She said we would do our best for him for as long as we could, but eventually we’d have to tell Uncle Ted, who at the time was living in San Francisco being a scientist and never answering his phone.

“Aren’t there brain pills or something that Granddad can take?”

“Cosmo, love, he’s already on lots of medication.”

“Well, no offense, Gran, but you’d better go back to the doctor with him and change the dose.”

“It’s not the dose,” she said. “It’s the illness.”

I didn’t think that was a very constructive attitude. I told her I knew for a fact that there were loads of doctors who didn’t have that much of a clue what they were even talking about. I started telling her about this one guy I’d seen on the True Stories channel who’d had a heart attack because they’d given him rat poison instead of cholesterol pills, but all Gran said was, “Oh, for goodness’ sake, Cosmo, will you please stop it?” which was quite cranky of her if you ask me. She never used to be grumpy like that, no matter how many things I told her about.

Later that night I googled “memory loss,” and I honestly didn’t know why I hadn’t done it sooner. It turns out there’s a load of information for people in our situation. The very first link I clicked on was a website called:

THE MEMORY CURE

Proven strategies to delay and reverse age-related memory loss when someone you love starts to forget.

Those glittery words of hope shone from the screen, making me blink, and I could feel pints of relief pouring through my body, right down into my toes.

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