Tantony, by Ananda Braxton-Smith

We found my brother in the skybog.
It was me that found him.
His body upright in the black water of boghole and his white face upturned to the dawn-pearl sky, like one moon watching another.
Skybog ground is dabbled with sinks of standing water as flat and shining as looking-glasses. When the bog mists curl away the pools show only white cloud or silver moonrays, lightning or stars, like bits of the sky have fallen right into the black earth. those sinks fill with falling rain or rising groundwater. Some are tiny, hardly big enough to hold even one star; some are deep as two men laid down end-to-end.

Fermion Quirk has just lost her ‘soft’ twin brother to the bogs that provide their family with a living. It’s true that Boson was always ‘soft’, but he became so much worse in the last years, since he went missing and was found. From then on, his talk was all of lonely people, voices in his head, and of being a bird. Fermion knows it is the reason that the townsfolk avoid them. Boson’s death threatens to tear Fermion’s family apart and she struggles to find a way to get through to them. Because it’s very soon clear that her mother is too lost in grief, and her father is lost without her mother to keep him on track. Fermion has lost her brother, her twin, and it seems that there is no room at all for her grief. Then the voices begin…

Tantony is set on Carrick, an island in the Irish Sea, in a time long ago. Superstitions and religion fight to explain variations in weather, in harvest, even the birth of ‘different’ children. Anyone different in anyway may be blamed for the sun not shining, the rain not falling and any manner of misfortunes that may occur. Tantony recalls another time, another place, but timeless issues. Fermion, who tells her own story along with that of her brother, her family, her community has a wonderful mix of practicality and openness to new ideas. She loved her brother deeply, but also loves her family too. She exposes the bullying, ignorance and more of the community and comes to understand other outcast community members. With a resoluteness that often appears to border on stubbornness, she saves the family she can. Tantony includes some words from the almost extinct Manx language, but also includes very poetic language. It is a potage of history and wonder. Recommended for secondary school readers.

Tantony (Secrets of Carrick)

Tantony, Ananda Braxton-Smith
Black Dog Books 2011
ISBN: 9781742031668

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book can be purchased from good bookstores, or online from Fishpond.