Matt Haig has said that he wrote this book because his daughter asked him to, and it’s just the sort of story the almost-seven-year-old in our house would have commissioned too. There are amazing animals, outdoor adventures, and important friendships – and it all centres on a plucky heroine who is trying to master her superpower.
Evie loves animals, so the fact that she can hear what they are thinking puts her in a perfect position to help the ones in trouble. Unfortunately, her gift thrusts Evie into the public eye, and when it draws the attention of the wicked Mortimer J Mortimer, she finds that the people and animals that she loves are in peril.
We knew that this book was going to be a hit as soon as we got to the brilliant animal facts on page 2 (did you know that slugs have four noses?) and especially enjoyed scenes where Evie inhabits the minds of different creatures – dogs are easy, but it’s v-e-r-y h-a-r-d t-o s-t-a-y a-w-a-k-e when you are mind-chatting with a snail.
The human characters (especially sparky Granny Flora and Evie’s best friend Ramesh) are almost as appealing as the animal ones, but our favourites were Plato, an omniscient bearded dragon, and Scruff the completely loveable stray dog.
This already funny and inspiring story is lifted to exceptional by Emily Gravett’s characterful illustrations (the series of Wanted Posters would make a fabulous book by themselves). It delivers serious messages about believing in yourself and taking care of the environment, but they are blended with such delights, that it is almost as if the author has used ‘the Dawa’ to put them across.
Evie and the Animals, by Matt Haig, illustrated by Emily Gravett (Canongate)
– Because we received a review copy of this book, we have made a donation to Mary’s Meals, so a hungry child will receive a meal a day in school for six months. Read here to find out how this works.