Lenny's Book of Everything
About the book
Lenny's younger brother has a rare form of gigantism and while Lenny's fiercely protective, it isn't always easy being the sister of 'the giant'. A book about finding good in the bad that will break your heart while raising your spirits in the way that only a classic novel can.
About the author
Karen Foxlee writes for both kids and grown-ups. Her first novel The Anatomy of Wings won numerous awards including the Dobbie Award and the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book. Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy, Karen's first novel for children, was published internationally to much acclaim while her second novel for younger readers, A Most Magical Girl, won the Readings Children's Fiction Prize in 2017 and was Children's Book Council of Australia shortlisted the same year.
When Lenny's brother is born in Ohio, six days after the 1969 moon walk, everything seems perfect except for her mother's sense of foreboding. The 'dark heart feeling' persists, and after five years is justified: Davey suffers from gigantism. It is the result of complex tumours wrapped around his pituitary gland that disrupt his growth hormones and initiates unnatural and unstoppable growth. When Davey dies, just prior to his eighth birthday, he is 6' 5" tall.
Lenny's Book of Everything spans the three years between the outward manifestation of Davey's condition and his death, and the unfolding story is charted with chapter-by-chapter records of his age and rapidly increasing height. Central to the telling is the periodic arrival of a serialised encyclopaedia, around the contents of which Lenny's and Davey's imaginations revolve, obsessions develop and domestic feuds manifest. The narrative unfolds with childlike jumps of association from one subject to another, making temporal leaps across paragraph and chapter breaks in an escalation of scenarios. Day to day life in their cramped apartment, interactions with their motley crew of neighbourhood shopkeepers, their neighbour Mrs Gaspar and her prophetic dreams are juxtaposed with more serious life issues: their vanished father, their mother's nerves and anguish, Davey's unmanageable hugeness and decline, the ultimate compassion of the community in times of sorrow and hardship, and Lenny's own resentment, frustration, shame, rebellion and sisterly protectiveness.
Lenny's first-person narration is a masterful combination of clear-eyed childhood honesty and the more mature tone of an older narrator reflecting on a segment of that childhood. Towards the end of Davey's life, when he is blind and pees on the floor instead of into the toilet bowl and Lenny is angry at having to clean it up, she crisply remarks 'You don't become someone perfect just because your brother is dying. You stay the person you are and all your good and bad bits are magnified.' This subtle mix of remorse and remorseless honesty is maintained throughout in a multifaceted exploration of the nuances of sibling love, rivalry, devotion and cruelty, making Lenny's Book of Everything a rare and outstanding novel that seamlessly crosses boundaries and speaks to readers of all ages.