The Switching Hour

Never stay out after the Switching Hour… never let the outside in

Never before have I compelled the time within a story to go quicker – until now with this book which tells of Badeko, a creature of legend that feasts upon the dreams of children, taking them from where they sleep if he can only but gain access to homes during the Switching Hour which takes place when the sun has finished shining and the darkness of night is at its peak. Prepare to be spooked because this book has just the right amount of suggestive spookiness to ensure your not only on the edge of your seat but also that you get those goose bump moments too.

Amaya has lived with her little brother Kaleb and her Granny Uma since their mother died in a fire, the details of which have haunted Amaya’s sleep ever since. There is a struggle for food and resources as the land suffers from a ceaseless drought, the likes of which have never been seen by those struggling through it, aware that ten children have been taken by Badeko since the drought woke him. This entangled story really captures your imagination as you fear the night time approaching for Amaya and compel her to get home safely every evening ahead of the Switching Hour whilst wanting to know even more details about the nightmarish creature as each night goes on.

A more loyal pet is unlikely to be found then Tau -Amaya’s pet goat, for he would put his life on the line for Amaya their bond is that special. Her days are spent looking after the goats, scavenging for supplies and being shown by Granny Uma how to securely lock the door to their home which is essential if they are to keep the creature of legend Badeko out.

The suspense really builds when Granny Uma is called away suddenly and Amaya is left to care for Kaleb and the house. Chasing around after a toddler all day is very tiring and Amaya is glad to get into bed at the end of a busy day, soon sound asleep. But in her exhaustion Amaya overlooks the most important thing her Granny has ever tried to teach her – always lock the door, something she instantly regrets when she wakes up to find her brother gone. The descriptive authenticity to this story is so immersive for the reader that you feel as though you are there with Amaya when she discovers her brother gone, feeling the fear and shock and uncertainty that now rocks their worlds.

Legend has it that once Badeko takes a child all relatives will forget their existence within three days and be left in a state of mourning for ever more. Keen to ensure her brothers return and that she does not forget him Amaya enters the frightening forest in search of him and Badeko. A friendship begins to blossom when Amaya happens upon another girl as she makes her way through the forest to the dead tree, home to Badeko.

The contrast between the purity of friendship and the darkness of the creature that inhabits the dead tree is clear as it portrays the battle of good versus evil in a world that is scourged of life and continues to be gripped with fear. There is so much sympathy to be had for Amaya, her family and many others such as Mally the girl who Amaya joins forces with and there is so much hope emulating from them all in a world that would certainly feel as though all is lost.

Following a strong female that is this fiercely determined is inspirational on a whole new level especially as Amaya has already endured so much, now serving as a role model to us all in how to tackle the problem head on and not to live in fear of the darkness as she does so valiantly when she strides into the forest without hesistation – something we could all benefit from doing (figuratively speaking) every so often.

The biggest surprise may well be that this title is in fact a debut from author Damaris Young who has based this tale of a creature of legends on those that she grew up to know of in South Africa which explains how Badeko has an unquestionable legitimacy from the get go. This has been one of the most amazing children’s books I have read and am excited for those children accessing libraries and book shops to enjoy it too.

The Switching Hour is published by Scholastic on 1st August 2019, RRP £6.99 (PB)

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