I, Mackenzie Elizabeth Carew, do solemnly swear never to communicate anything about what happened tonight.’…I closed my eyes and said the sacred words.
‘May my nose fall off and my hair turn blue,
May I fall in a tub full of alpaca poo.’
Tahlia nodded. ‘We have some major thinking to do.’
Mackenzie and Tahlia live with their grandad. He’s almost the only family they have since their parents passed away. But something has happened to Grandpa and suddenly he isn’t the responsible one any more – it is up to the girls to look after him. Tahlia tells Mackenzie that they mustn’t tell anyone – but as Grandpa gets increasingly erratic and Tahlia leaves more and more of the work to Mackenzie keeping the secret gets harder and harder.
Don’t Breathe a Word is a gentle exploration of some difficult subject matter. Grandpa is suffering from dementia, and, for the girls, their fear of being separated from him shapes their attempts to care for him, and their interactions with friends and neighbours, as well as their older half-sister Lydia.
For children who face difficult situations, Don’t Breathe a Word will be a help, and for those children who don’t face such dilemmas it will be intriguing. Musgrove portrays the situation with gentle creativity, and the use of the first person narrator takes us inside Mackenzie’s head as she struggles courageously with the hand life has dealt her.
Don’t Breathe a Word, by Marianne Musgrove
Random House, 2009
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