The Hideaway is a work of art. I rarely get precious or over-excited about books as objects. I buy and collect them for their contents. But, just occasionally, one appears that makes me want to treat it gently and purr over it! This is one. Author/illustrator Pam Smy and the design team at Pavilion Books have created a masterpiece.

Having judged the book by its cover, I should also mention that the content lives up to the packaging. The story has three elements to it but at the centre is Billy McKenna, a young runaway. He has been pushed to the limits of endurance by the situation at home and has taken refuge in an untended graveyard. There he meets an elderly man who is employed in a strange task which forms the third element of the story. The middle strand is Billy’s mother’s telling of his disappearance and the ramifications for her.

Although the book looks a little other-worldly and fey, the issues explored in it are all too real and of this world. Billy’s home life is a torment to him, provoking him into running away which, in turn, makes his mother’s already fragile existence more tortured. The old man understands loss but also the strength of love and the story culminates in an expression of that on All Souls’ Eve.

Even better than the story, though, are the illustrations. I’m not sure that I have the vocabulary to share how captivated I am by them. I want to use words like entrancing, evocative, haunting, illuminating… They don’t simply detail the story; they also extend it. And the whole layout delineates the strands of the plot with even the pages of text alone having a design point to them.

You’ll gather that I’ve fallen in love with The Hideaway and I’m recommending it wholeheartedly to readers of any age from fluent to adult.

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