BooksforTopics Reading for Pleasure Recommendations
First the accident, then the nightmares. The shadowy thief steals all the colours from Izzy’s world. Will her new neighbour and a nest full of cygnets save Izzy and solve the mystery of the colour thief?
Book Title: The Mystery of the Colour Thief
Author: Ewa Jozefkowicz
Publication Date: May 2018
Most Suitable For: Years 5-6+
This is an authentically told story that poignantly portrays life during dark times for twelve-year-old Izzy. After a traumatic car accident, Izzy’s mum is in a coma in hospital and Izzy feels like the whole thing is her own fault. Dad is struggling to keep things together and even Izzy’s best friend Lou is turning away from her.
While Izzy tries to act bravely and hold everything inside, something even darker is happening inside her mind. At night, a terrifying shadow man is haunting Izzy’s dreams and stealing away colours one by one. Each morning Izzy wakes to find that another colour is missing and she feels lost in a bleak sea of confusion about what is happening and who to tell.
Meanwhile, Izzy befriends her new neighbour Toby, a wheelchair user who is recovering from an accident of his own. The pair bond when they discover a nest of cygnets by the river and take it upon themselves to help the smallest cygnet, Spike, to survive against the odds. In time, Toby becomes instrumental in helping Izzy face her shadows and find hope amid the bleakness.
This is an emotionally charged story with incredibly nuanced characters. Ewa Jozefkowicz respects the emotional intelligence of her readers by allowing the complexity of the characters’ feelings and perspectives to be exposed even when there are no easy answers and the characters cannot fathom what their feelings mean. At no point in the narrative do we look down on Izzy for being unable to process her feelings of hopelessness and confusion; instead the narrative evokes deep compassion and a sense that, while her family circumstances may have become unusual, her struggle to find order among her thoughts and feelings is quite relatable. Readers may find encouragement and solace in Izzy’s journey as she comes to realise that she is not as alone as she might think.
Sometimes emotions become so tangled that they are too difficult to put into words and what I liked about The Mystery of the Colour Thief is how the author weaves into the plot a number of ways of visually representing some of the associated feelings. First there is the painted mural on Izzy’s bedroom wall, which represents Izzy sliding into feelings of bleakness as the picture gradually becomes void of its colours. Then there is the vulnerable cygnet Spike, who needs a little help from others in order to survive in tough times. Finally there is the school play, in which actors can give the most impressive performances in role of a character while still feeling empty and misunderstood underneath the costumes and scripts, which reflects the way in which Izzy puts on an outward appearance of bravado even though she is really falling apart inside.
There are glimmers of hope at the end of the story as the mystery unravels and Izzy finds the help she needs to process all that is bottled up inside. Not everything gets resolved – because life is not like that – and there is a still a sense that things might be tough for Izzy for a while, but there is an encouraging message about seeking help during the dark days and that even if you are not sure what help you need then somebody else might.
This is a really moving story inspired by real experiences and it may see you reaching for the tissues. Powerful feelings are handled in a compassionate way, characters are authentically nuanced and the plot is compelling. I recommend this book for Years 5-6 for opening up important conversations about mental health.
Look out for our guest blog post from the author next week about addressing mental health issues in primary schools.
Many thanks to the publisher for kindly sending me a review copy of this book.