Mike – a good solid name there. Plain and simple. Dependable, or so you might think. In many ways, it is a simple book; an appropriately light-footed read centring on a young tennis prodigy who comes to question his calling, thanks to the unplanned, unexpected interventions of an imaginary friend named (no need for a drum roll here) Mike. Mike, the uninvited imaginary friend: not at all plain, far from simple, and certainly not, if first impressions are anything to go by, dependable.
Here lies the joy of this deceptively easy-going book by Andrew Norris. Mike (the book) wrong-footed me at several turns and did so without resorting to ‘too-clever-by-half’ machinations or wild flights of fancy. It has just a dash of something like magic in everyday clothes. It offers a sensitively handled exploration of the sorts of concerns that can apply to any of us at times in our lives: the pressure of expectations that might not be in our own best interest; the difficulty of balancing a sense of duty with your desires; the strength it takes to find the courage to say ‘no’, and mean it; the risks of acting on the advice of someone that no-one else can see.
Perhaps that last concern isn’t universal, but in Norriss’s careful rendering, it feels entirely reasonable that it could be. Mike – the book, not the character – would make a great addition to your upper juniors and would offer up some interesting opportunities for discussion relating to characters’ motivations, actions, and notions of destiny, in guided reading.
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