I’ve been chairing events this week at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. I missed last year due to illness so I’m particularly delighted to be back. I’m now halfway through my events and I’ve loved them all and enjoyed all the books I’ve read in preparation. It’s really tricky to pick out highlights and I expect that over the next few weeks I’ll write about any of the books I’ve been talking about with their authors. But I have to start somewhere.
And I’ve chosen Tin by Padraig Kenny, partly because I met him for the first time today and enjoyed his company very much; and partly because I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. If I’m being honest, I would almost certainly not have chosen to read Tin if I’d had a completely free choice. But that’s part of the joy of being involved in the EIBF. Janet, the Children’s Programme Director, selects events for me to chair and I pretty much say yes to everything. Then the books come through and I realise I have to read sci-fi and horror and fantasy as well as the kind of books I naturally gravitate towards.
Tin, I learned today, is set in an alternative 1930s England where child-sized mechanicals are created to carry out certain tasks. These mechanicals (NOT robots!) live and move and have their being at the whim of the engineers who create them. Christopher, however, is Proper, a real boy who works for an engineer but has a group of highly individual mechanicals as his friends.
I don’t want to spoil the story for you because I really think you should read this book. It’s about friendship and wonder and loyalty and trust. There’s a mystery and a quest and a bit of magic. But mostly it’s about wonderful, wonderful characters, each with their own personality and motivation and traits. And it is beautifully written, full of humour and sadness and confusion.
By now you’d have thought that I might have stopped judging books by their cover. Thank goodness for the Edinburgh International Book Festival is all I can say. I’d have hated to miss this new author and his debut novel. Trust me.