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Book review: LOB by Linda Newbery

Posted by Dawn Isaac on 09 Feb 2010 at 04:15 PM


Winter is not a great advert for gardening.  The jobs are dull, the weather depressing and the only thing that appears to be growing is my contempt for the season.  So, I have to look to other sources to inspire my green fingered offspring.

Thankfully, I had been sent LOB last month to review.  Written by Linda Newbery, the story centres around Lucy who hears stories from her Grandpa Will of the mystical Lob - a garden creature as intriguing as fairies or goblins but a whole lot more useful. According to Grandpa, Lob helps around the garden doing 'Lob-work' - be it filling a watering can or weeding the onion bed - but only special people can see him.

Of course, Lucy's mum and dad think this is all nonsense (as in most successful children's literature, the parents are well-meaning but rather slow on the uptake) so it becomes a bond between grandfather and granddaughter, a tale to talk about whilst planting up the runner beans - and even more so when Lucy sees him herself.

I chose to read the story aloud to my six-year-old daughter, partly because I wanted her thoughts on the book, but also because LOB is written beautifully which makes it a pleasure to read aloud.  Believe me, after you've been forced to read as many 'Rainbow Fairy' books as I have, this will be a welcome break.

It also helped me to cope when the book took a rather abrupt and sad turn after only a couple of chapters.  I don't want to spoil the plot, but let's just say Grandpa Will won't be harvesting any more potatoes... I am rather embarrassed to say I blubbed but thankfully my daughter is made of stronger stuff and helped me through the worst.

There then follows twin tales of Lob's travels to find a new 'special person' to work for and Lucy's attempts to come to terms with her loss.  The book does deal with grief - and brings up as many conversations about that as it does on the correct way to plant beans - but it handles both just as adeptly.

If I had any quibbles it would be at the introduction of the Chelsea Flower Show - and even Prince Charles (a Lob-spotter apparently) - into the story.  These just seemed too contemporary and specific set against the timeless nature of the rest of the book.

Still, Ava has declared it "the best gardening book I've ever read" (it is also the first, so this should be taken with a pinch of salt).  She also said she like the 'magic and gardening bits' so I playfully suggested that we might want to look and see if we had a Lob in our garden.  At this she gave me a pitying look and said "Oh Mummy, it's all just pretend you know".

Trust a six-year-old to spoil the moment.


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