His Name Was Walter – Emily Rodda – Harper Collins Australia – Published 23 July 2018
While on a history excursion, an ill-assorted group of four kids and their teacher are left on a country road when their minibus breaks down. At the suggestion of a friendly tow-truck driver, the five take shelter in a nearby old, deserted mansion. There they find a little old desk with a secret drawer. Inside the drawer is a book containing a handwritten story and a series of vivid, strangely lifelike paintings. The book is called His Name Was Walter.
The story begins: ‘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.’ And so begins the tale of Walter – his lonely childhood, his flight from the haunted streets of the city, his discovery of Magda the witch, his quest to find Magda’s lost daughter, and his meeting with the love of his life, the mysterious, tragic girl he calls Sparrow.
As the night closes in around them and the story of Walter and Sparrow unfolds, the kids read it avidly. Slowly the outer and inner stories begin to mesh. Slowly the story of Walter draws the five members of the group together. And in the end every one of the five plays a vital role in the uncovering of the truth.
From master storyteller, Emily Rodda, comes a stunning new story. His Name Was Walter is part mystery, part historical, part fantasy and wholly charming -sure to delight young and older readers alike.
When a small group of school children and their teacher get stranded on a lonely road while on an excursion it makes sense for them to shelter in the large house nearby. But the empty house is hiding many secrets, among them an old book with its thrilling story of young orphan Walter and his adventures, the strange people he meets and the mysterious girl named Sparrow that he sets out to rescue. As the story unfolds, the four children will encounter mysteries, history and a tale the likes of which they would never have imagined.
From the minute I first unboxed and revealed my copy of His Name Was Walter I was impressed. This book is stunning – from the sumptuous cover and design to its thrilling and touching story. The hardback cover is tactile and the cover design intriguing. The end pages allude to some of the illustrations from the story Colin and his three classmates discover. As we unboxed it, all the librarians gathered around to ohh and ahh, and we knew this was going to be a hit with students.
At first, it was a little unclear which genre His Name Was Walter would fall into. The story starts in the modern day, as a group of students become stranded and find shelter in a nearby empty house. As they find the mysterious book and start reading, elements of fantasy and mystery are introduced, from talking and anthropomorphic animals, to witches and magic. The entire copy of the book the children find is included within this book, a book within a book, made distinct by different font and introduced as the children stop and start reading, discuss the book’s events and the mystery behind it. Walter’s story is just as compelling as the children’s reaction to it.
While this story could be set anywhere – it has a classic, timeless feel – little touches, mentions of willows on riverbanks and Colin’s family farm, give it a familiar touch of Australia.
His Name Was Walter entices you in and quickly captures the reader’s attention. It is a delightful and touching story about love, with a slightly sad ending but one that is totally satisfying. Magical, imaginative, clever and original – young readers are sure to love this wonderful story.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Genre: Mystery, Adventure.
Themes: Mysteries, history, animals, love, stories, writing, illustrations, magic.
Reading age guide: Ages 8 and up.
Advisory: Vague references to war. Threatening scenes with references to a scary beast.
Published: 23 July 2018 by Harper Collins Australia.
Format: Hardcover, ebook. 288 pages.