Like clockwork, I kept waking.
There was a noise next to me that made me blink my eyes open for moments at a time and stare into the blackness. I knew what it was.
Whenever the baby’s breathing got out of time or the sheets in the cot next to my bed rustled too much, it woke me. Most times, I could dart out of bed and reach into the cot and pat his back until he calmed; rearrange his quilt before the restless breathing became a squealy cry. I knew that if I didn’t move myself quickly enough, there’d be a sudden glare of hallway lights and lots of trouble.
I held my breath and waited. The sheets rustled again.
Steven, his mum and his baby brother, Dylan, live in a cottage some distance from a country town where he goes to school. He doesn’t know how they got there, or why the past is so foggy, but it is. It comes to him in incomprehensible snatches that seem to make no sense. In the present, his mum is struggling to cope and Steven is doing his best to make things right. Add to this the fear that things are going to get worse now the car has been stolen, and Steven is travelling with a lot of baggage. And he has the normal stuff of life to deal with. He is sure it would all be easier if he could just unlock the memories of before.
Steven has had to cope with much more than most kids. Occasionally he wishes things were different, that he had a different family, but mostly he just puts his head down and does what needs to be done to get by. Change the Locks was originally published in 1991 and now is republished by Walker Books. It has lost none of its relevance in that time. It paints a realistic and sympathetic portrait of a child, a family, who are all too often invisible. Steven tells his story in first person, and the reader can often see what he can not. Change the Locksis a moving story of survival from the perspective of nearly twelve-year-old boy. Simon French has a light touch with heavy material and ‘Change the Locks’ is compellingly readable. Recommended for upper-primary, early-secondary readers.
Change the Locks, Simon French
Walker Books 2012
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author
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