BooksforTopics Reading for Pleasure Recommendations
Book Title: The Extraordinary Colours of Auden Dare
Author: Zillah Bethell
Publisher: Piccadilly Press
Publication Date: April 2018
Most Suitable For: Years 5-6+
The Extraordinary Colours of Auden Dare is a gripping story set in a dystopian future where the rain has dried up. The world is at war over its water supply and everybody is permanently thirsty and unclean. Inside the UK, which is in a slightly more fortunate position than other countries due to its access to large amounts of coastline, everything is under the authority of the Water Allocation Board, which allows citizens a daily water ration and keeps watch on everybody through its intimidating-looking drones.
The story’s main character, Auden Dare, is an eleven-year-old boy who has a rare condition called achromatopsia, which means he is unable to see colour. Auden moves to Cambridge after his mother inherits a bungalow belonging to Uncle Jonah, a professor who recently died under sudden and mysterious circumstances. One day Auden and his new friend Vivi Rookmini discover a fascinating robot-like creature called Paragon in his uncle’s old shed and begin to question what might have been Uncle Jonah's original purpose for the robot.
Soon the pair, together with the very clever and human-like Paragon, find themselves caught up in an investigation about Uncle Jonah’s work, his previous interactions with the Water Allocation Board and his mysterious death. The search leads Auden on an unintended voyage of self discovery as he develops a friendship with Paragon and inadvertently has his eyes opened to his 'true colours' when he becomes involved in the complicated ethics of managing global water shortages.
Zillah Bethell’s storytelling is wonderfully enigmatic and thrilling throughout. There is always the perfect amount of detail in the world-building to construct a fascinating and conceivable dystopian world that is only a worryingly small step away from our own, but there is also a delightful amount of intrigue to keep the reader tantalised throughout and hanging on to every word. I particularly enjoyed the use of colours as a metaphor for the unfolding character development as Auden, who to start with tends to act with an air of childish arrogance, moves away from an understanding of the world in black and white and begins to perceive things in a much more nuanced spectrum of colours. I also enjoyed the irony in the way in which it takes a friendship with Paragon, who is after all a robot, to help Auden develop compassion and a deeper interest in humanity itself.
I highly recommend this thought-provoking story and I'm convinced that it would make a great class novel for upper KS2. Much like Zillah Bethell’s other children's book, A Whisper of Horses, I completely adored reading The Extraordinary Colours of Auden Dare and I am eagerly anticipating more stories from this author.
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Many thanks to the author Zillah Bethell and publisher Piccadilly Press for kindly sending me a copy of this book.