Reviewed by Nyjolene
I picked it up on a whim, didn’t read the back, had no clue who the author was, so all I went on was the cover. A crafty-looking kid sitting beside a blue and red striped wall, with a white crocodile drawn on it. And the title: Sketcher.
Three things happened almost instantly when I started reading. One: I fell in love with Skid. He’s an adorable rascal with a sharp mind and big dreams. Two: You want to live in the swamp with this family. Don’t get me wrong, it’s horrible. So many things go wrong, and the standard of living is shabby and dangerous, but there’s so much adventure! Realistic adventure that makes you want to join in, or (as it’s a book, and joining in isn’t an option) climb in a tree with your mates to have secret meetings about ‘important stuff’. Three: You believe in the impossible. Not because your life so far has given you reason to, but because Skid believes it, and the way he let’s you in on the ‘magic his brother can do’ makes you believe it too.
Then, while reading, a personal mystery slowly unfolds. There are tiny clues, all linked to the origins of Skid’s mom.
To quote Pa Campbell: “Now, I’m not sure I should be tellin’ you this, but your mother’s from San Tainos, son. She was born there. The gods made that place special.”
After finding out that Skid’s slightly different hair structure with its slight red glow is also linked to his mother’s origins, and reading that his mom tends to speak Patois on occasion (when she’s very angry, I think) I decided to Google ‘San Tainos’. What do you know, the Taίno were the principal inhabitants of, among other places, Jamaica. Skid just might be Jamaican – like me. Then again he could also be Cuban or from Haiti, but still I felt even more connected to the story, and experienced a greater interest in my own roots. The thing is, you feel Skid search for answers. Not even so much to the obvious questions of why his family lives in the swamps, why is brother has a gift for drawing that gets him out of doing chores like the rest of the siblings, or even why his mom is so devoted to Christianity but knows exactly how to deal with ‘blood-letters’ sent to their home. Skid seems to take all those things in stride, the thing that seems to drive him forward is the desire to uncover the big secret that everyone seems to be tiptoeing around. He knows his mom can protect their home from ill-wishers and he knows his brother can alter reality by the things he draws but he doesn’t know why everyone is acting like they don’t know. Everyone but Pa Campbell, that is…
This book, by Roland Watson-Grant, moved me on so many levels I can’t try and explain. But magic hasn’t been incorporated into a book so smoothly and convincingly, leaving me yearning to be a part of its great adventure, since Boy’s Life by Robert R. McCammon. Five out of five stars!
More staff reviews can be found here.