His Name was Walter
About the book
Once upon a time, in a dark city far away, there lived a boy called Walter, who had nothing but his name to call his own ... The handwritten book, with its strangely vivid illustrations, has been hidden in the old house for a long time. And when four kids and their teacher find the book the haunting story of Walter will be read - right to the very end ... From one of Australia's most renowned children's authors, comes an extraordinary story within a story - a mystery, a prophecy, a long-buried secret.
About the author
Emily Rodda's first book, Something Special, was published with Angus & Robertson in 1984. It marked the beginning of a career that has seen her become one of the most successful, prolific and versatile writers in Australia. Emily has written or co-authored over ninety books. Her children's books include the award-winning Rowan of Rin series as well as the outstandingly successful Deltora Quest fantasy series. Emily has won the Children's Book Council of Australia Book of the Year award a record six times, the most recent being for the extraordinary His Name Was Walter in 2019.
Emily Rodda has crafted a perfectly paced and resolved work in this quality hardcover novel for children and readers of all ages. She is in complete control of her sophisticated narrative construct. His Name Was Walter is a consummately composed mise-en-abyme or story within a story, where the inner story is embedded inside the framing story. The inner story follows the life of Walter. Walter's tale has fairy tale elements that conceal a deeper core truth. His story impinges on the framing story, where the reader enters the novel.
In the framing story, set in the 'real world' in the present, new boy Colin is on a school history excursion when the bus breaks down and he and three other students and their teacher find themselves stranded in a deserted house for the night. Colin finds an old illustrated book hidden in a secret desk drawer. This book is called 'His Name Was Walter'. The children read parts aloud, becoming absorbed in Walter's tale and becoming part of a haunted house story themselves. This highly original ghost story draws on Walter's story, entwining intricate layers to form an imaginative, metaphorically rich allegory.
In the fairy tale, Walter grows up as an orphan in a beehive before living in a rabbit warren while working in a counting house. He is unassuming and kind. As a young man he falls in love with Sparrow, a lonely girl who shapeshifts into a bird. A number of characters are shown in the guise of an animal so that they are not recognised in their own place and time, a time between two great wars when a shadow looms over the land.
Word play, visual imagery, foreshadowing and dramatic irony enhance this mesmerising tale. Themes of war, entrapment and homelessness highlight the impact of the past on the present. Characters mature and gain insight into each other as they face guilt, forgiveness and truth. All is flawlessly exposed in an audacious and satisfying final reveal.