Lee Battersby’s Magrit (2016) is a fun and engaging fable for all ages.
The story follows the life of Magrit, a young, almost-going-on-ten girl who lives in a graveyard with a skeleton called Master Puppet. Her world is soon turned upside down when a stalk delivers a baby to the graveyard. Despite Master Puppet’s warnings, Magrit’s curiosity gets the better of her and she begins to take care of and raise the baby, whom she names Bugrat. Yet, as much as Magrit loves her new playmate, she finds the ageing Bugrat odd. And when he continues to play in an area of the graveyard that Magrit is afraid of, she learn a secret that Master Puppet has been keeping from her.
Younger audiences, for whom the book is written, will delight at the story’s sense of fun, Magrit’s growing awareness, and parable-like ending. Older readers will find themselves smiling at the fanciful, yet grounded, antics and the playful way strange and traditional narrative elements have been weaved together.
At points, the story, which is short as it is, can become a little long-winded as Magrit frets about Bugrat’s insistence to play in the scary area. Yet, without this inner dialogue, the ending revelation wouldn’t be as powerful or believable. Moreover, it enables readers to see a truth contained in the fiction: that children (in this case, Bugrat) often show older people how things really are in the world.
The black and white illustrations throughout, and the purple lined pages add to the book’s charm and otherworldly feeling. The polished prose, colourful detail, and quirkiness of the story’s situation culminate in a sad and touching ending that make it a delight to read. Unless you are averse to fun, Magrit comes highly recommended for all ages.