As a thinker and a dreamer, 11-year-old Stevie has a gloriously rich interior life and is on a mission to answer life’s big questions. How do phones work? What are sea angels? Why does she get a warm fuzzy feeling that only happens when she looks at her friend Chloe? Deservedly shortlisted for this year’s Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, The Deepest Breath by Meg Grehan is a wonderfully eloquent and perceptive introduction to LGBTQ identity for pre-teens.
The proud wearer of extremely cool nail varnish, Chloe is also a playground adventurer and amateur magician, possessed of an inner sparkle that makes Stevie blush. ‘I really don’t know what a crush is,’ Stevie tells us. But suspecting it’s linked to her fizzy tummy and blushing, she embarks on a search for answers, utilising the Google fount of all knowledge, her mum, ‘because mums know things,’ and also, heartwarmingly, a decidedly old fashioned search engine, her local librarian.
Stevie’s wide-eyed curiosity and exuberance is tempered by emotional vulnerability. Her dad is markedly absent and the breakdown of her family and emergent sexuality create a turbulent emotive state, often expressing itself through nocturnal dreams of the ocean.
‘ I dream about the sea…black like bruises or ink or midnight.’
The deceptively simple verse form of this novel acts like a lightning rod, conducting Stevie’s innermost thoughts to the reader, her empathetic nature shining through in a beautiful description of yet another dream, stargazing with her dad one wintry night. In this vision, the very stars float down slowly from the sky, until they’re surrounded by a cosmic frosty sparkle. Later, Stevie writes the dream down and posts it to him.
Her love for her mum is similarly a joy to behold, their weekends consisting of popcorn, movies on the sofa, and mellow togetherness.Reassurance and permission to be her true self is all Stevie needs and the reader is with her all the way in this delightful novel.
The Deepest Breath by Meg Grehan is published by Little Island Books, 180 pages.