In the Trees
London, Faber & Faber, 2010, 337p
It's less than a week until World Book Day and therefore less than a week until Pauline Fisk comes to visit my school. I've been saving this book for a while, as Pauline spoke so enthusiastically about it; and I have to agree it is wonderful.
In the Trees is about a young boy's search for somewhere to call home. Kid grew up in South London, his mother passed away when he was young, and he does not know anything about his father except he is from Belize. Dropping out of school, Kid flies to Belize to search for his father, following strange trails through the rain forest in his quest. He encounters dangerous people, supernatural myths, and makes amazing friends.
Poverty is a theme that pervades throughout the novel - both in terms of financial poverty and emotional poverty. Kid is the sort of young man who has slipped through the social services net, and is outside the attention of those institutions that should be there to help him. He feels that growing up in South London has prepared him well for the threats that await him in South America; but he finds the culture is so different, and he discovers a poverty like nothing he has experienced.
And yet the people he meets are full of love and hope. There is change in the air, as a new government is elected, full of promise. People only use what they need, and only have very little. But they appreciate it.
When Kid starts out, he seems to be completely lost. He doesn't have a home in South London; he has no family and few friends. He is half Belizean, but still feels slightly put of place when he travels there. He wants to learn about his heritage and his father, in the hope he will better understand himself and where he belongs.
The novel is very enlightening. Fisk's descriptions of the rain forest are vivid and beautiful, taking you right into the jungle with the young characters. It makes me want to go out there. The story is long but gripping, full of twist and turns and new adventures. Kid is a brilliant character, and particularly appealing for those with little sense of self. He grows and develops, becoming self-aware enough to recognise that, even as the novel ends, his journey is not yet complete.