Calypso has always been her own best friend. She sits by herself at school. She’s a solitary girl, an island. She surrounds herself with books rather than people, enjoying the quiet space in her head that her books make, a space filled with magic and mystery. So when new girl Mae arrives at school, Calypso is surprised to find a kindred spirit. Mae also loves books and reading and for the first time, Calypso finds herself inviting a friend into her world.
Since the death of her mother, Calypso has learnt to cope with life on her own. Her father is a presence in her life, but he keeps himself to his study, burying himself in his work. He talks to Calypso about finding her own inner strength in order to cope with life’s problems. His version of inner strength makes him appear increasingly absent and with Mae’s arrival, Calypso finds herself spending more time with her friend and her family. It isn’t until she begins to experience ordinary family life that she realises how different her own life has become.
Calypso desperately misses her mother and when she learns that her father has been keeping secrets from her, she begins to realise that his attempts at demonstrating inner strength are simply masking the grief he has been struggling to cope with and his emerging mental illness. Thankfully Mae and her family come to the rescue and help Calypso and her father cope with the difficulties they both face.
A beautiful book about grief and depression, but also the power of friendship and hope. Each character has been carefully crafted by author, Jo Cotterill- Calypso, thoughtful yet isolated and Mae, the ray of sunshine in Calypso’s lonely world. A book full of emotion and yet incredibly well grounded. Whilst there is a happy ending, Cotterill alludes to the difficult processes the characters have been through to get where they are and that there may still be dark days ahead, as this is often the case when dealing with mental illness.
A wonderful Moving On book, perfect for the more mature KS2 & KS3 readers. The references to classic and modern children’s literature throughout are a joy to find. Readers could create a list of the books on Calypso’s shelves and create a reading challenge from them. If you’d like to see Jo Cotterill reading an excerpt of her book, take a look at this Youtube video.
Library of Lemons Jo Cotterill
Piccadilly Press ISBN: 978-1848125117
You can read another review of 'A Library of Lemons' here.