Sticklebacks and Snow Globes

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9781579621551: Sticklebacks and Snow Globes

Sticklebacks and Snow Globes, by debut novelist B.A. Goodjohn, is set in a 1970s council-house estate just outside London, and captures a year in the life of Tot Thompson and the neighborhood kids. For an eight-year-old, Tot has a lot on her mind. She has epilepsy, which she personalizes by calling it "Kit-the-Fit". She never knows when "Kit-the-Fit" is going to strike; as such, she's constantly on guard. She doesn't know what to do about her fourteen-year-old sister Dorothy who has been acting strangely ever since she found herself a boyfriend. Her friend Keesal, an Indian boy, is being bullied. Another friend Stacey wants to be called David. There's a lot going on. But her biggest concern is her father, Donald, who wants to go to America to play the trumpet in his band. She wants to stop him going, so she decides to make a deal with God. She vows to catch seven sticklebacks (small scaleless fish) for seven Saturdays before sacrificing them - with a house brick - if God will stop her dad leaving. She's not your average kid. Oh, and she loves snow globes.

There are a lot of broken dreams in this novel. Tot's mother Elaine hates the fact that she lives in a council estate. She thinks she is better than that, and everyone else in the estate knows it. And then there's Gerald Damson who was a successful businessman - before he was bankrupted. Now, he too is in a place he never thought he'd be. Not to forget the neighborhood kids. Lilly O'Flannery thinks she knows all about the adult world, how it works, and how to work with it. She is in love with Nigel, and fails to see that she is being used. He promises her fish and chips, and dinners at restaurants, but his intentions are always doubtful. Lilly's trusting naivety is heartbreaking. Dorothy has joined the Girl Guides so she can get close to handsome venture scout Chris. When she does, she hasn't counted on the consequences, and Chris quickly loses interest when times get tough.

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About the Author:

B.A. Goodjohn (or Bunny Goodjohn) emigrated to the USA from the UK in 1999. Her fiction and poetry has appeared in various literary magazines, including The Texas Review, The Cortland Review and Wind Magazine, and in a number of anthologies. She now lives and writes within sight of Virginia's Blue Ridge and shares her space with a rabble of tomcats and a small flock of rescue hens.

Review:

In this magical debut, working-class British council-estate life becomes a sort of quotidian wonderland starring children clever and strange and very real.
Eight-year-old Tot is a glass child, an epileptic always with a wary eye out for the pouncing arrival of Kit-the-Fit, her personification of the seizures that wet her knickers and send her tongue fluttering. Her dad, a sweetheart, good-for-little dreamer, sometimes mistakes her writhing for doing Stevie, his nod to the jerking dance moves of his idol, Motown master Stevie Wonder. Trumpeter for the Blue Notes, a ragtag Dixieland crew swinging the corner pub, he fantasizes splitting for The Big Easy. Goodjohn's got a winsome soft spot, but she's a tough naturalist, too, so she actually has dad abandon the wife and kids. Which leaves Tot mourning, collecting snow globes and fishing for stickleback in company with the Our Gang of the Stanley Close tenement, new arrival Keesal, who's Paki and picked-on, Seamus the Retard and his brother Michael, football-star dreamboat. Terrific Glitter-Decade detail (Tot dreams about Bianca Jagger, Farrah Fawcett's vinyl jumpsuit and really killer platform boots) alternates with dead-on musings about dead-end politics. The stars around Tot's moon, her stuck-up mom and sister Dorothy ( Queen of Ladylike ) and Catholic-school daredevil Lily ( who had touched a dead man's face in a funeral parlor ) are the tenement's hard-suffering regiment of women, their lives filled with ordinary joy and loss until Dorothy shocks the neighbors with her pregnancy. And Tot's poetic look at life turns worldly wise.
A cozy, richly written delight. --starred review in Kirkus

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