Walter, Jon. Close the the Wind
July 3rd 2014 by David Fickling Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
Malik and his Papa are on the run after Malik's mother has "been called away". We know that there is something horrible going on, but Papa has told Malik that his mother will meet them at the ship. Malik believes this, since he is young enough to put his hand does his pants and also wet himself. In a vaguely war-torn country, Papa has lost everything that he had, and is trying to make it to the ship to sale away to another country. The time seems to be modern, since Malik is offered a cereal bar at one point. The prices on the ship keep going up, since everyone wants a ticket, but Papa has taken a very expensive piece of his past with him-- will it be enough to overcome all of the obstacles and get him and Malik on the ship?
Strengths: This is lyrically written, and has a decent amount of suspense and adventure. Malik and Papa's fall from being wealthy to being on the run is interesting.
Weaknesses: The lack of concrete explanation of country and time period on this is a huge failing. I understand that the author wanted to make this universal, and this might work with adult fiction, but it doesn't work with middle grade. (Interesting interview with the author here.) Students at my school are taught to identify the place and time when they read any piece of literature, and I have to answer enough questions about fantasy books. This device just made the book confusing and frustrating for me.
What I really think: If this were more action packed or interesting, I could excuse the lack of place and time, but it's a bit too slow (and Malik seems too young; see pants problems above) for my readers as well.