The Space We’re In
Katya Balen, illustrated by Laura Carlin
Frank counts down ‘The Space We’re In’ to when Max starts school. Frank can remember a time before Max, when ‘Mum painted the universe’ and ‘Dad _ wore a shirt that stayed clean all day;. Now Mum’s eyes are ‘swimmy and full and she gulps air like she’s drowning.’
Max has a special book, special pictures, a special squashy balls and a special box of things. He ‘eats with his hands’ from a ‘special plate‘ and ‘likes Quavers, mashed potato, plain biscuits and chips with no red sauce’. Frank thinks it’s unfair, but then he worries about Rhoda putting Max on the bus to school, and whether the school will know about Max.
Frank longs for a time that he doesn’t ‘stay in the howling jungle with this hurricane boy‘. Every part of Frank’s life is compromised by Max’s existence. He sees the weariness upon his Dad, and the way Max is diminishing his mother. Learning provides Frank with sustenance and wonder, from Mrs Havering’s family tree making, to neighbour Max’s explanations about spiral galaxies and the golden ratio proportions.
Throughout Katya Balen’s outstanding book. we hear Max’s inner voice and heartbeat. We watch his sketchbook of numbers and codes expand, through Laura Carlin’s instinctive illustration. Furthermore we understand his hopes, dreams, fears and frustrations. It is rare to step into another character in such a way; The Space We’re In is reminiscent of Lenny’s Book of Everything for its impact and meaning. Readers of all ages are recommended this stunning novel.