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A powerful debut bravely tackles adult themes in child-friendly way

Kids' book of the week

By Kate Whiting

There's a genre of fiction that goes something like this - boy with learning and/or physical disability, or mental illness, spots, or solves, a crime.

It began with Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-time in 2004, in which our hero has autism, and was notably followed up by Virginia MacGregor's What Milo Saw, about a boy with the sight condition Retinitis Pigmentosa.

The Goldfish Boy is the latest incarnation, but aimed squarely at children, who will empathise with 12-year-old narrator Matthew and his oddball friends, Jake and Melody.

Matthew suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, brought on around the time his baby brother died, which makes him afraid of germs - and reclusive. He takes meals in his spotless room, wears rubber gloves, and keeps tabs on the goings on in his street, earning the nickname Goldfish Boy from Casey, the girl who comes to stay with her grandfather, Matthew's neighbour.

When her toddler brother Teddy goes missing, Matthew is the last to have seen him - and so he starts to investigate his closest neighbours, learning that, in their own way, they've each had to deal with losing a child.

Matthew and his anxieties are instantly relatable, and Thompson's book is by turns dark and light, as she bravely tackles serious subjects in a way children will understand.

It is a moving and powerful debut.

Belfast Telegraph

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