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Friday 18 September 2015

Review: Where I'd Like to Be

Again an incredible and well-rounded story has found its way to me. Where I’d Like to Be had me riveted from the first page. I didn’t stop reading till the last word. Themes of place, home, a need to belong, and the importance of story, emotionally engage the reader’s attention in every scene in a meaningful and moving way.

Eleven-year-old Maddie is plain in appearance but bright and artistic with a loving nature. Abandoned by her mother and raised by Granny Lane, she was told that, as a baby, she was saved by a ghost. Granny’s blindness sees Maddie move from one foster home to another until she reaches the East Tennessee Children’s Home. Although she accepts that adoption is improbable for her, Maddie still dreams of having a home of her own when she grows up.

Maddie keeps two scrapbooks, The Book of Houses and The Book of People. These are filled with pictures cut and pasted from magazines with her friend, six year old Ricky Ray from the Children’s Dorm. The idea was inherited from a boy in a former Home who used it to build dreams and keep hope alive. This is a strong sub-story that interconnects with the main characters’ hopes and dreams, and their longing for somewhere to belong.

Maddie has been at the Home for five months when Murphy (not my real name) arrives. Maddie is immediately drawn to the exciting, worldly girl who weaves stories about her life and her magical belongings that are beyond belief. She creates scenarios that make her life seem enviable to hide dark secrets that plague her. Yet Maddie accepts all the stories as truth to nurture their budding friendship.

Logan Parrish is a misfit with more to him than is visible. He and Murphy become friends. The group grows when Donita, another girl from Maddie’s Dorm, shares the scrapbook stories. With the support of her Uncle who owns a supply store, the five build a fort in Logan’s back yard. They now have a home of their own to escape to.

The fort gives the five children a sense of achievement, place and belonging. They spend every free moment there absorbed in imagining, creating stories, poems and dreams around the buildings and people in the scrapbooks. This is their survival tool.

Murphy’s need to impress a wealthy girl from school brings things to a climax. There is a tremendous shift in the relationships between the children. The scrapbooks play a pivotal role in this shift. They are a metaphor for the power of words to destroy or build up, depending on how and for what they are used. Shocking things are revealed and the book ends on an unexpected note that brings Maddie’s life full circle.

Title: Where I’d Like To Be
Author: Frances O’Rourk Dowell
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, $9.99 RRP
Publication Date: July 2015
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780689870675
For ages: 11+
Type: Middle Fiction