One morning, when Evangeline was lying under the bed, as usual, wondering what to think about next, a broom suddenly appeared and swept her out onto the bedroom floor.
The next thing she knew she was thrown into a big black plastic bag with a jumble of other toys, books and old clothes. She lay there for a while, quite comfortable on what felt like a fluffy jumper, with her eyes open and her big elephant ears pricked to listen in case something else happened, but nothing did, so after a while Evangeline closed her eyes and zoned out.
Evangeline is a stuffed toy elephant. When her owner tires of her, she is transported Upstairs, which is where all toys go, eventually. There, their erstwhile owners may forget them, but the toys do not forget. After they have been ‘processed’, they are each assigned a job suited to their interest and experience. All Evangeline wants is to be special to someone, to be their beloved companion, rather than a forgotten toy. Evangeline makes new friends Upstairs, but all is not well in this new world. There is something very wrong, and it’s getting worse. Illustration pages/colour plates are scattered throughout, the images soft watercolours with ink outlines. Pages are coloured to give an aged look, as if this were a book from another time.
Upstairs is the place of wishes, of sanctuary. It may either be a new permanent home, or a waiting place until a toy is sent Downstairs to be someone’s special toy. It’s also a place of friendship, of happiness and fulfilment. It’s a magical place where time and space are measured differently. There are strong themes around friendship and abandonment, good and evil. But even in the examination of evil, there is understanding and a plea to look behind the behaviour to what motivates it. ‘Evangeline’ is a gentle story, in a lovely hardback cover, that will work well as a read-to story, as well as a story for confident independent readers. Recommended for junior primary and as a read-to for younger children.
Evangeline, The Wish Keeper’s Helperr, Maggie Alderson ill Claire Fletcher
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author