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From the Hardcover edition.
Lucy loves her summers at her grandparents' cottage. She and her grandfather have a special ability shared by a select few: Their penchant for growing things and their love of the natural world means that they can both see Lob, an incarnation of the traditional green man who helps out in the garden, bestowing growing magic wherever he goes. When Lucy's dear grandfather dies and his garden is paved over for new homes, both Lucy and Lob are at a loss. Lucy invites Lob to come and live with her, but she and her family don't have a garden plot at their London home. The narrative traces Lucy's journey and Lob's—occasionally presenting Lob's point of view in haiku-like verses printed in large type—as they try to find each other again. With a decidedly old-fashioned feel, the story moves at a leisurely pace, keeping at the forefront the importance of connection to the earth and its seasons. Unfortunately, the rather flat characters, particularly Lucy, may not be compelling enough to make readers care. (Magical adventure. 8-11)
It was the beginning of June. The sky stretched high and higher, streaked with cloud. Lucy and Grandpa Will were down in the garden, planting out runner beans.
These leafy little plants had grown from the beans they'd sown in small pots, last time Lucy stayed. That was magic, if anything was! The mottled pinkish beans had been dry, rattling from their packet as Grandpa shook them into his hand. Lucy couldn't believe there was life in them, but Grandpa soaked them overnight, and next day showed Lucy how they'd plumped up, how a tiny tip of root was starting to feel its way. Now--now look! There were leaves, and stems that twined up their sticks, reaching for the sky.
Grandpa (and Lob, he said) had made the soil ready, digging and digging, adding dark compost, till the earth was as rich and moist as fruit cake. He'd put up wigwams of canes for the bean plants to climb. Now he and Lucy worked together with trowel and watering can. Lucy carried the plants to Grandpa, who tipped each one out of its pot, settled it in its hole, then pushed and firmed the soil with the tips of his fingers.
Lucy sprinkled water, making a small puddle round each plant.
'Will they grow?' she asked.
'Oh, they will, sure as ninepence,' said Grandpa.
Just then, Granny Annie shouted and waved at them from the back door. Someone had come from the village to see Grandpa.
'Want to carry on, Lucy love?' Grandpa straightened, and wiped his hands on his trousers. 'You know what to do.'
Lucy felt important. She had to do it right.
She crouched by the canes and reached for the trowel. When she'd dug the right-sized hole, she filled it from her can; then, when the water had drained away, she copied Grandpa, tapping a plant free from its pot and holding it carefully in her hands. She put it in the hole, and felt which way it wanted to face. Then she trowelled the earth around it, and pressed it close with her fingertips, as if tucking the plant up in bed.
'Grow!' she told it.
Had she done it well? Would the roots reach down and the plant grow strong? Did she have magic in her fingers?
When she'd planted them all, she went to the water-butt by the shed to refill her can. It was heavy to carry, and she sloshed water into her shoes. Concentrating hard, she didn't notice at first, but then she did.
In the gooseberry bushes near the cane wigwams, there was a flicker of movement. A tremor of greeny-brown. The flash of an eye, a bright green eye. It looked at her and seemed amused by what it saw; then blinked, and was gone.
'Lob?' she whispered.
All she saw now was leaves and grass. The gooseberry stems prickled her hands as she pushed them aside. Her ears caught a rustle that could have been laughter; then no more. Whatever it was, it was gone.
Lucy knew from Grandpa Will that Lob was a wild thing, who wouldn't let himself be caught or touched, or even stared at for long. But she'd seen him at last--seen him, all by herself!--and that made her feel special. Lob magic, garden magic--she was part of it now. It was part of her. She danced a little jig of celebration. When Grandpa came back to see how she was getting on, she rushed up to him.
'Grandpa, Grandpa! I've seen Lob!' She pulled at his sleeve, guiding him towards the gooseberries. 'There! He was sort of greeny, and he was looking at me. I think he was laughing.'
Grandpa was delighted. 'Yes! That's him, all right. Excellent! You're learning to see. I thought so. Most people don't. They look straight at Lob and have no idea he's there.'
Lucy soon realized that she wouldn't always see Lob; only sometimes, and only quick glimpses. Once she saw an old face, gnarled and barky; sometimes there was a shiver in the long grass, as if a snake was sliding through.
But even without seeing, Lucy knew he was there, from the way she felt inside. There was a sparking of mischief in her head, a tingle of energy in her arms and legs. She wanted to run, jump, climb, be everywhere at once. And she knew that Lob made Grandpa feel the same, even though he didn't run, or jump, or climb. He just moved around the grass paths and the tool shed in his usual way, slowly, surely and a little stiffly.
'Oh, you and your Lob!' the others would say to Grandpa--Dad, and Mum, and Granny Annie. They'd exchange grins that said Let him play his little game.
Lucy had to feel sorry for them. They had no idea. And she and Grandpa Will exchanged secret smiles of their own.
In the car on the long journey back to London, Mum said, 'You know Lob's not real, don't you, Lucy-Lu? It's just Grandpa's story. He likes making up special stories, just for you. There isn't really a Lob.'
'But there is, there is! I've seen him!'
'No, Lucy, you haven't. Not really. You just think you have.'
Lucy began to fear they might be right. Was Lob just a game she played with Grandpa?
Next time she went to Clunny Cottage, she was afraid that the Lob feeling wouldn't be the same.
But--yes! As soon as she got out of the car, and stretched, and hugged Granny and Grandpa, she felt Lob-magic everywhere. In the quiver of a leaf. In the deep shadows of the ash tree. In the small breeze that stirred the leaves. Here he was. Her heart lifted; she felt it rise and swell in her chest, warming her with happiness. She felt bigger and more alive here than anywhere else.
'Hello, Lob,' she whispered.
Of course he was here. Of course he was real. Now, and for ever and ever and ever.
From the Hardcover edition.
Posted January 23, 2011
This is a beautifully written book! My son (8 yrs.) and I took turns reading it aloud. So much better than most of the kids' lit. out there! Wonderful, simple illustrations as well.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.