Nicola Skinner
Harper Collins Children’s Books

Nicola Skinner’s latest book is quite simply gargantuan. Actually though, nothing is simple about this utterly brilliant story.

Eleven year old Minnie Wadlow lives on an island in Quake Quarter, the gated walled city to be more precise: there’s not much wrong with said island if you can ignore the earthquakes that regularly strike, causing buildings to crumble and schools and houses to collapse. Fortunately the island’s inhabitants have come up with the perfect way to fix their crumbling walls: they use giants (one of the two kinds living in the island). These servant giants act as minders for the human children including Minnie: her giant is Speck; but when the girl turns twelve years old, she’ll have to kiss Speck goodbye thus turning her to stone forever. The stone is then used for repairs: all perfectly normal and fair – so Minnie and the other human children have been led to believe; it stands to reason they must never, ever develop any warm feelings towards their giant; nor must there be any secrets between child and giant.

Minnie and her family live in Quake Avenue, at number twelve, the least up market of all the twelve mansions, each of which belongs to an employee of the Giant Management Company and Mr Wadlow is endeavouring (unsuccessfully), to invent something that can stop the earthquakes for good. Minnie is forced by one Mr Straw, to take twice daily doses of medication – painkillers and muscle strengthener so she believes.

Not long after the Goodbye ceremony of Florin and his giant a violent earthquake strikes the island. Minnie quickly realises that despite what she’s been told, she isn’t ready to bid farewell to her giant forever. So, she runs away, thus betraying not only her parents but everyone she knows. She doesn’t remain entirely alone for she encounters first a jackal and then Robin Scragg whom she’d met at Florin’s ceremony..

Her journey becomes a race against time during which she has to face the truth about her island, Speck the giant and crucially, herself and who she really is.

With Flavia Sorrentino’s fantastic illustrations, this is a spectacular tale of letting go of all you thought right and genuine in order to remain true to yourself and your loved ones.