BooksforTopics Reading for Pleasure Recommendations
Book Title: The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day
Author: Christopher Edge
Publisher: Nosy Crow
Publication Date: April 2018
Most Suitable For: Years 5-6+
The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day is a story like nothing I’ve ever read before, but I loved it from start to finish. If somebody had pitched to me a children’s book covering topics of entropy, relativity, black holes, the Möbius loop, Escher's art and virtual worlds in gaming, I may have laughed at the idea. Unless of course the book's author is Christopher Edge, who true to form has managed to accomplish it triumphantly as part of a wonderfully absorbing and emotional narrative that is as fantastically exciting as it is accessible.
The story’s main character, Maisie, is a 10-year old girl who is academically gifted and is studying for a degree in physics. Maisie spends a lot of time thinking about science and maths, but still finds moments to worry about some of the same things that other children her age do, like her relationship with her older sister. When she wakes up on the day of her 10th birthday, Maisie is excitedly hoping to receive the components to build her own nuclear reactor as her birthday present, but what happens next is not at all what she expects. Nobody else seems to be at home and when Maisie opens the front door to find out where her family has gone, everything seems to change. There are many unforgettable scenes in children’s literature where characters open a door to find something completely unexpected (my own favourite being The Tiger Who Came to Tea), but the moment when Maisie opens her front door takes unexpected to a new level because nothing at all exists out there except a terrifying, unfathomable blackness. “The observable universe is supposed to be 93 billion light years wide,” reflects Maisie, “but mine has shrunk to the size of this house. And it’s getting smaller all the time.”
Finding herself trapped in an ever-shifting reality, Maisie has to rely on her understanding of the laws of the universe to comprehend what is happening and figure out a way to reach out to her family. As the plot unfolds, details about Maisie’s past are cleverly interweaved into an apparent alternative universe, as each layer of the mystery is unwrapped in a narrative version of an epic game of cosmic pass-the-parcel. Each one of the scientific concepts covered is explained by narrator Maisie in a child-friendly and accessible way that makes perfect sense in the context of the plot, so none of it seems beyond the reach of young readers. The book also covers very relatable themes of family relationships and developing self-awareness. What I really enjoyed was that, although Maisie very much processes the world around her in terms of scientific models and theories, what she is actually doing is asking the same questions that thousands of 10-year-old children find their own ways of exploring; Who am I? How do I know I exist? What is my relationship with the rest of the universe outside my front door?
Christopher Edge's storytelling is exceptional and the climax of the book is a brilliantly thrilling twist, making this one of the most gripping stories I have read for a long time. I loved the interplay between different means of constructing worlds, as the narrative explores how storytelling, science and computer coding are different languages that people use to create and explain universes.
Thanks to its thrilling plot, unique concept and mind-blowing twist near the end, l highly recommend this short and thought-provoking read for Upper KS2 and beyond.