This is the beautiful story of Evie, a young girl coming to end of primary school who has issues to deal with, the biggest one being Evie can speak to animals – all animals! Using telepathy Evie can hear thoughts of animals around her and interact with them in return, as and when she chooses.
Evie’s dad is massively cautious about Evie having ‘The Talent’ and makes her keep it a secret, urging her to not draw attention to herself because Mortimer J Mortimer – the man that killed Evie’s mum – is looking for anyone with this special skill and he is dangerous. Feeling quite isolated in this Evie is shocked to find her Granny also possesses it which gives her some relief to know she can get guidance in using/not using ‘The Talent’ and she isn’t alone in this either.
When all of the local pets go missing Evie knows something is terribly wrong. She cannot find her dad or granny and knows it is down to her to face the past and the danger that has followed her all this time. Evie calls upon local animals that she has helped over the course of the previous few weeks for help and they do not disappoint. She is a strong willed, well mannered and caring character that undoubtedly holds animals dear to her heart, and spends every moment she can looking out for them, like when she puts the seeds off the bread on her windowsill for a little bird she has a connection with.
Throughout the story there is an undertone that being true to yourself is the best approach to whatever you are faced with, and this is reinforced as the story reaches its climax when Evie reveals her true self to her best friend Ramesh and she stands up to those that bully her, showing complete pride in who she is and what she is capable of. The book also provides a spotlight on the environmental issues that the planet faces, namely the imminent extinction of several species of animal that should be protected and valued. Evie knows so many facts about animals and the environment and she would fit in well with todays climate of Greta Thunberg et al.
Children that love animal stories will totally fall in love with Evie and the Animals, as would those looking for an adventure story with a hint of magic, after all it’s not every day we come across someone that can tell us what animals are thinking regardless of whether they be domestic, wild or zoo animals. I thoroughly enjoyed this story and cannot wait to share it with students when we return to school in the Autumn especially given there are stunning illustrations from Emily Gravett throughout, helping to immerse the reader and support their comprehension of the story so far in utterly amazing detail. I would love to see this become a series from author Matt Haig as I know children will love the ingenuity of the storyline, and that whether it is a slug or a snail or a lion in a zoo, being able to hear their thoughts takes children and their imaginations to a whole new level.
Published by Canongate on 6th June, priced at £12.99 (HB)