Damean Posner (text), Jules Faber (illus.), Helix and the Arrival, Random House, 1 July 2015, $15.99, 288pp., ISBN 978 0857 986 535
Helix is a cave boy who is about to take part in his clan’s coming of age ritual – the Arrival. This is a time when a young man must pass the spoken test and the hunt.
The spoken test won’t be a problem for Helix as he has a good memory for the facts he has been taught, even if he questions their veracity. The hunt is another matter entirely. It involves going into the woods and returning with something big, eg heavier or longer than him; or dangerous eg has teeth, horns, claws or venom; and / or rare.
Helix is an erudite (as much as one can be in those days), fast talking, animal loving coward and doesn’t have a hope of achieving this and not achieving the Arrival leads to banishment.
Helix and the Arrival is written for children, aged 9-13, particularly boys who delight in descriptions of food odour, bad breath, nose hair and eating burnt rodent kebabs. The characters are a likeable lot especially the feisty Saleeka, a strongly feminist cave girl with a dry sense of humour. The pace is quick and exciting and the pictures amusing, particularly Helix’s expression of bemusement.
The themes covered include the importance of friendship and self acceptance and the role of discussion and exploration in learning. There is also a hint, mind you just a hint, of what it might be like to live in pre-historic times.
Reviewed by Katy Gerner