Saturday, September 25, 2010

review : mimi and the blue slave

Mimi and the Blue Slave, Catherine Bateson (Woolshed Press)

Mimi’s father has died unexpectedly, leaving Mimi and her mother to cope with their antique bric-a-brac shop by themselves. The book opens on the day of the funeral and Mimi has a terrible bout of the flu. This was really a remarkable way to deal with such a desperately sad situation; Mimi floats in and out of reality, fever burning, and is cared for by her imaginary friend, Ableth the blue pirate slave. It made her grief and confusion so easy to understand.

These are the last moments of my father, I told Ableth.
Pardon me, my queen of the blue, but they aren’t, he said. You’ve got him in your head and heart and always will.’

Mimi and her mum aren’t totally by themselves – there are the slightly mad aunties Ann and Marita who try their best at advice and consolation, enigmatic people from the antiques-buying world and Fergus the boy from the fruit and veg shop who are there in the background for when the seas are rough – and they do get a bit rough.

I love that Bateson acknowledges that things like having skinny jeans like everybody else are still important to young people, even when they are grieving. Mimi is a lovely, sweet and mature character who loves all things piratical and who reminded me of Martine Murray’s Cedar B Hartley with her quirky thoughts. The old antique shop took on qualities of a pirate ship and Mimi, her mum, Ableth and the rest of the gang bucketed and swayed and splashed through their troubles - until hopefully reaching the calm after the storm.

Girls (mostly girls, though some boys may enjoy this book too) from eight or nine years of age will very much enjoy this book and though it is sad, it would be great to read aloud as a family.

I was given this book to review for Magpies magazine.


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