Golems have featured in Hebrew and Czech legends, books and even musicals and now they are the subject of a children’s novel by Edinburgh based Kelpies’ prize winner Alette J. Willis.
The book is full of entertaining and informative details so should satisfy buyers looking for a ‘worthy’ educational read. But it’s more than that. The narrative features Edda, a shy, thirteen year old who allows herself to be bullied by another pupil in her class. Everyone tells her she should stand up for herself but of course it’s not that easy. When her house is burgled, her imagination runs wild and she lives in a constant state of fear. Â The arrival of a geeky new boy who befriends her, appears to offer help in the form of a golem who will protect her; but in order to create the golem, Edda must perform certain tasks. (I won’t spoil the book for you!)
Yes, the bully gets his come-uppance but the conclusion is more interesting than that, as the golem, as Edda was warned, obeys her every wish â€“ literally â€“ and becomes a threat in itself. While legends describe the destruction of golems who become troublesome, Willis instead turns her golem from destructor to pacifier and, with victim and bully forming an alliance to neutralise the golem, it’s a much nicer ending.
I just wonder if 240 pages of first person narrative by a self-obsessed teenager isn’t a bit much to offer 10-ish year olds. The style makes it difficult for an author to inject much life into the supporting characters. However, the themes of bullying, being the new girl and the loyalties and insecurities of best-friendship are all themes that demand sympathy. The author doesn’t talk down to her readers and I’m sure the added frisson of a local interest story will particularly attract Edinburgh readers.
All in all this is a thoroughly attractive story and a worthy winner of the 2011 Kelpies prize.