Inspiring Young Readers
Stitch by Pádraig Kenny.
I would guess that Pádraig Kenny’s Stitch will always draw comparisons with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and while that is understandable – Stitch and his friend Henry Oaf have, after all, been created and constructed by their very own eccentric but brilliant Professor Hardwick – the book is so much more than a Gothic pastiche for younger readers.
Stitch is, in fact, a warm and touching story of what it means to be human – or to have humanity. The story opens with Stitch and Henry in their isolated castle waiting for the Professor to come out of his room. Henry is in disgrace for his clumsiness and his failure to learn some of the basic social codes of behaviour but Stitch is able to do the basic housekeeping needed to keep things going and, we learn, he’s also developing a fascination with what’s outside the castle. It’s a world he only understands through his obsession with his one book – ‘The Great Book of Exploration’.
But Stitch and Henry are in for a shock when they discover that their Professor isn’t just resting but has in fact been dead for some time. This all starts to become clear to them when the Professor’s son and his assistant, Alice, turn up and they discover that this new young Professor wants to continue his father’s experiments – on them!
But Stitch and Henry aren’t just objects – they have developed personalities, emotions, likes, dislikes and friendships and they’re not prepared to give them up. And, they’re encouraged in this by the friendship offered by Alice – who also feels herself to be an outsider exploited by the young Professor.
When Henry disappears before he can be experimented on again, Stitch and Alice come to the only conclusion they can – he’s made a break into the outside world. But Alice knows his good-hearted naivety won’t stop the people outside calling him a monster because of his physical appearance and that he’s in big trouble. So, despite the dangers Stitch and Alice set off in pursuit.
But tracking Henry down isn’t quite so simple and their task is made harder when they come across a elderly blind man in need of their help – a good turn that will play to their advantage later.
So will Alice and Stitch save Henry? Will they save themselves from the mob? Well, you’ll have to find out for yourselves because I’m not going to spoil it for you. What I will say, however, is that the trio get some help from a very unexpected source – an intervention that will significantly change the way they see themselves. Oh, and by the way, Stitch manages to hang on to The Great Book of Exploration…..
At the end you’ll be left to ask yourself why it is that we put so much store by the way people look rather than the way they behave. The book will prompt discussion on why are we so eager to label people as outsiders or monsters based on their physical differences rather than on their personalities.
This is a book that we would strongly recommend and is available now from Walker Books. You will be able to get a copy from your local independent bookshop – who will be happy to order it for you if they don’t have it on their shelves.