Leon and the Place Between

It was only in December that I came across one of my favourite books of the whole year. Leon and the Place Between written by Angela McAllister and illustrated by Grahame Baker-Smith.

leonThis is the story of a young boy called Leon who steps into the world of magic via the travelling magician Abdul Kazam.

There are so many things that are wonderful about this book.  To start off with the illustrations are stunning.  The magic seems to be in purple but the gold filigree is beautiful as are all the details in each image.  The fonts are stupendous and just what you would expect to see used on a poster/flyer for a circus or travelling show.  I love the windows in the pages that are portals through to the other worlds.

Like all good fantasy stories, you enter through a portal, Leon brings something back with him from the place between so that at the end children are left wondering whether he really went there or not.  Such a classic story pattern of voyage and return (as described by Christopher Booker in The Seven Basic Plots).

Voyage and Return Plot

I have paraphrased Booker here and have used the language that I use when I talk to children about this type of plot.

  1. We meet the main character/s and they move into a strange world unlike anything they have experienced before
  2. the new world seems exciting but it can never feel like home
  3. the mood changes to frustration and difficulty and a shadow begins to intrude which becomes increasingly alarming
  4. the shadow starts to dominate and pose a threat
  5. the hero escapes the threat back to where they started.  The question is asked – what did they learn or gain?

The only difference is that in Leon and the Place Between the shadow doesn’t really appear.

The language is rich and the use of patterns of three as sentence constructions emphasise the build-up of the excitment and tension.  A wonderful book that should be in all school libraries and if you teach Yr 4 and haven’t looked at the fantasy unit of work yet then this could be the book for you.  Get the children to imagine their own place between.

Let the magic begin……

4 thoughts on “Leon and the Place Between

  1. Although there may not be an obvious shadow, I think there is a hint of a shadow while Leon is in the Place Between. When the magician’s son sadly reports that the white rabbit was never called back, a question is raised in the reader’s mind: will Leon be called back?

    When discussing the text with year 4 children, their personal response was that the text was exciting, but scary. Leon is, after all, going into the unknown. In book talk and writer talk the children were able to discuss the contrasts within the text – light/dark, noisy/quiet, movement/stillness and scary/peaceful – and many of the devices that the author and illustrator had used to create these contrasts and the effects created. This is a quality text, which enables quality discussion!

  2. I agree with you about the dark part of the story Sandra. In fact, much as I love the book, I think there is a slightly sinister (or dark) air to it altogether which is part of what I like.

  3. Another book that follows a voyage and return blueprint is The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe. Here the children go through to the new world through the wardrobe. This place becomes mroe and more threatening to them particularly in relation to the Queen and the idea that they will be frozen in time as statues. They do however, win the battle and return to their world.

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