Lee Battersby, (text), Amy Daoud, (illus), Magrit, Walker Books Australia, 1 March 2016, 160pp., $19.99 (hbk), ISBN 9781925081343
Magrit lives alone in an abandoned cemetery with only Master Puppet for company. She’s content to roam freely under his watchful eye from the rooftop cross where she fastened his bone-and-junk body. Magrit is nearly ten when a stork drops a baby into the cemetery. Against Master Puppet’s growling advice, Magrit looks after baby Bugrat, feeding him worm paste and keeping him safe as he grows. She’s nearly ten when Bugrat discovers the skeleton of a mysterious girl in an area of the cemetery Magrit has been avoiding. The voice of the skeleton girl joins Master Puppet’s in her head, needling her to look more closely at what’s changing around her. She’s nearly ten when Bugrat turns four and stumbles into the arms of real adults who take the living, growing boy to look after. She’s nearly ten always, as Master Puppet gently explains, but that’s okay. The skeleton girl goes but Master Puppet remains with her as they step out of the now-discovered cemetery and into the world.
The review copy is a beautifully produced book, hardback with a textured finish and pink edges, indicating that the publishers have a lot of faith in this whimsical tale. The story is a tad scary with its skeletons and talking talisman, although nicely balanced by the loyalty and love of Magrit’s creation, Master Puppet. The story begs comparison to The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, in which Bod is raised by ghosts in a cemetery, and in some ways Magrit is more chilling as she roams around the abandoned cemetery with only her sculptured friend for companionship.
A gentle ending completes the story as we realise that there’s a whole world outside the cemetery for Magrit and Master Puppet that she will choose to explore.
Reviewed by Pam Harvey