Reviews /

The Sleeping Stones

Authored by Beatrice Wallbank
Published by Firefly Press

The Sleeping Stones: Beatrice Wallbank’s debut children’s novel certainly resonated with me.  Perhaps, you might say, because, it just so happens that I was brought up on the island of Anglesey, have a love of story and myth, spent many happy hours on friends’ farms as a child and was certainly used to stormy weather, but never did I see large stones move back into the sea, have conversations with mythical Blacksmiths or discover a friend to be a morgen. Perhaps I just wasn’t looking closely enough!

The Sleeping Stones would make an excellent class or individual read. It begins with Gruff receiving a letter from Matylda, who is moving to the island from Manchester. Gruff, with his Dad and Nain (Nana), lives on their sheep farm, which has been in the family for generations but is in financial trouble. Mat’s family represent the new; they have moved around, she feels like she has no home, they build websites, and yet despite not having learnt to swim, Mat yearns for the sea. The novel charts Mat and Gruff’s blossoming friendship as the two navigate their shyness, their own different beginnings and experiences, and by the end, they discover that they, and more importantly, the island, need each other to set things right.

While Gruff needs to make sure he can stay on the island where he belongs, Mat is constantly asking ‘“Where do I fit?”

“Here,” Gruff said firmly. “With Zofia and John. With the people you love. That’s where home is.”’

The mythical beings; the weeping stone that finds itself on land when it should be with its six ‘siblings’ in the sea; Dylan the morgen, and Gofannon the blacksmith all face the same dilemmas as Gruff and Mat – the need to find, accept or stay where they belong. It is Mat and Gruff who are empathetic enough and strong enough to follow the stories and try to make things right and indeed to save the people (and sheep and dog), in a tense few chapters, from the raging storm and sea.

The novel deftly manages old and new. The importance of the Welsh myths to the landscape and heritage is clear here and I personally loved the incidental Welsh that is evident throughout the book (always translated and so accessible to those who may not know any Welsh). The references to the Mabinogi are there should readers like to conduct further research, and yet the story is clear without this too. The novel, like Gruff and his family, is grounded in story and heritage, and yet they also welcome and need Mat and her family. This marks a wonderful first novel, and I will certainly be looking out for more stories from Beatrice Wallbank in the future.