As a storyteller's fire captures its audience, David Almond's latest novel draws the reader through darkness into irresistible light. "Heaven Eyes," the third novel for young people by this highly acclaimed author, offers what Almond fans anticipate: a wonderful mixture of mystery, fantasy, dreams, and reality.
The story begins at Whitegates, a "three-storied place with a garden paved over in concrete and a metal fence around it." Erin and January constantly run away from the orphanage in search of adventure and freedom - freedom from their disappointed caretaker, psychiatrists, social workers, and from the Life Story books they create from scraps of memory, fact, and imagination.
January, the boy named for the wintry night his mother left her day-old baby on the doorstep of a hospital, rigs a runaway raft out of two doors and some paneling. Erin Law, one of the few children with a real name and real memories of the time before Whitegates, brings her treasure box and a few photos. As they sneak away, Mouse, whose father tattooed on his arm, "please look after me," insists on coming along.
The runaways don't get very far, but where they disembark might as well be another world. After escaping from the thick mud of the Black Middens, they encounter Heaven Eyes, a strange luminescent girl with webbed fingers and toes. She leads them to an abandoned printing warehouse, where she lives with a mysterious old man.
The kids discover that "the most extraordinary things existed in our ordinary world and just waited for us to find them." Almond's vivid and original storytelling creates a very real sense of wonder.
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor