She boobled down to the dirreny sonce
Alone, unarmed, her tickery jonced.
“What me? What my? What cooliers lie here?”
She whinnied furverly in the ghoulian ear.
And up he rose like a miney bront,
Waving his tammons in a sleery flont,
“Don’t wake me, don’t shake me,” the ghoulian gristled,
And piped his phantoms across the spistles.
A ploon bellowed out over the sheel
And she ran as fast as her miggens could reel,
“No more dirrenies,” she whispered aloud
And sluped back down to sleep on her mound.
The above is Sarah Crossan’s take on Lewis Carroll’s nonsense-but-makes-total-sense versifying in ‘The Jabberwocky’, as composed by her mouthpiece in her novel, ‘Apple and Rain’. Her eponymous heroine (Apple) constructs this verse to entertain step-sister Rain, but excels at non-jibberish poetry as well, a fact she keeps very much to herself.
It’s a very fine novel, short-listed for this year’s Carnegie Medal. Some critics have likened its writer to UK YA legend, Jacqueline Wilson – and it is easy to see the similarity. In itself this is high praise. Ultimately Ms Crossan missed out to Tanya Landman’s ‘Buffalo Soldiers’ for the gong. Another title by Sarah C, ‘The Weight of Water’, had similarly been previously listed.
‘Apple and Rain’ deals with a splintered family trying to bring itself together, only to create new fractures. Apple is a sensitive soul – delighted, on one hand, to have her mum back after a long period of estrangement, but devastated to lose her one true school friend to the ‘in-crowd’, led by a particularly bitchy piece of work. Rain is the strange little sister our Apple never knew she had until her mother returned skint and deflated from chasing the rainbow on the other side of the Atlantic. We can forgive Apple, in her excitement at her parent’s reappearance, for treading all over the feelings of her nan who has largely, as well as strictly, raised her. The freedom under her mother’s control is at first heady, but she soon realises it comes at a cost.
Apple’s hoped for romantic entanglement with a much older boy doesn’t, to her embarrassment, eventuate, but she finds a much more worthy and age-appropriate soul mate soon after. This latter lad is a delightful creation by Crossan, one of the best features of the work. In the end both young gentlemen come through with flying colours, helping to put Apple’s world to rights.
When asked, in a recent interview, what prompted this particular narrative the author explained, ‘I wanted to write a book about just how important grandparents are but wanted to look at what would prompt a parent to leave a child. I have a child myself and I can’t imagine abandoning her ever, but people do this all the time. Why and how? These are the questions I wanted to explore.’
Although the answer to those queries are complex, the novel is anything but. It’s not a taxing read and nor does it wallow in sentimentality. Apple eventually finds she is no powder puff and with some help, finds the feistiness to snub her nose at her detractors. Unfortunately the device she uses to conspire this to happen is somewhat hackneyed – I was hoping for a less ‘Home and Away’ and more originality.
That being said, this is still a marvellously engrossing tale being told. I particularly enjoyed the character of Apple’s English teacher – a kind soul addicted to poetry, trying to inspire his students with the Brit greats. He’s on Apple’s wavelength and appreciates her own fine attempts at poetsmithing, once he unearths them. He is attuned and caring enough to step in when his talented pupil is about to sink.
Time flew as I powered through the pages of ‘Apple and Rain’, so it is with interest I await the arrival of SC’s new offering. She has set herself an impressive challenge with the subject matter – conjoined twins. I’m sure she’ll be up to it.
Sarah Crossan’s website = http://www.sarahcrossan.com/