I was completely blown away by this powerful novella which chronicles the inner dialogue of Rex, a young teen whose father has very recently passed away. There were smiles and there were tears as I watched him struggle to come to terms with his loss and with his final moments with his father. Definitely something to share with tweens to open up conversations about grief and loss.
I’m also very lucky to have a special piece from Laura about the real-life inspiration behind the Dream House Rex’s godfather built for him in the back garden, and for Laura to share how her own experiences of grief helped shape this moving story.
Rex has gone to stay with his godfather, Sparky, following the loss of his father. Rex doesn’t say much but that’s OK because Sparky is always on hand with a cup of tea to enjoy on the sofa, set up outside like an outdoor living room.
Rex has his sketchbook, and he draws how he feels even if he doesn’t talk about it. And in Sparky’s garden, hidden under the canopy of the willow tree, is the Dream House: a lovingly created space just for Rex, to dream, to play, to think, to be. A place he’s loved all his childhood. But to go inside now Rex must summon his strength for revisiting the ghosts of his past . . .
The Dream House Isn’t Just A Dream…
by Laura Dockrill.
My dad’s best friend, our ‘godfather’ is a man called Krissy Wardie. He has big blue eyes and shiny silver hair that always stands on end, he is always smiling. When I was a little girl, Krissy Wardie, who had no kids of his own, built us a wooden shed/hut/ Wendy House thing, underneath the big willow tree at the very back of his garden. It was a perfect spot, here where the grass was long and happy, the frogs hopped and flowers grew wildly. We grew up in the city, we didn’t really have a big garden of our own– so this, to us, was just completely other-wordly. Krissy Wardie called it ‘The Dream House’.
The Dream House had a roof, a real glass window, and a rounded door with a latch so nobody could come inside without knocking, and to look at it, you wouldn’t even know it was there, hidden away under its drapes of green leaves. Inside was even more magical– Krissy Wardie had found some off cut scraps of old, itchy, grey school carpet in a skip which he used to cover the floor, and two old school wooden desks with the ink wells and flappy up lids which he’d always fill with colouring books and crayons, books, comics, magic tricks and pranks.The walls were covered with pictures of lions, giraffes and dolphins.
Krissy Wardie was an electrician for his real-life job and so the Dream House was lit with real lights, and even had a little heater for the winter–it was like a Gingerbread House from a storybook, a grotto. My little sister and I absolutely loved it here, we’d spent weekends making, drawing, playing and dreaming. I wrote many stories inside the four walls of that house. In fact, we loved it so much, we recently fought over which one of us could get it moved into our own back garden! But I think we both secretly know that The Dream House cannot, must not be moved.
That it’s where it belongs…I always knew I wanted to tell the story of the Dream House. I wanted that magical place to somehow appear in one of my stories, I was just waiting for the right one…and along it came.
This new story is an original one, reimagined and inspired loosely around watching my own dad experience grief collaged with the loss of a great family friend that we all love and miss very much. When my dad lost his own dad and his lifelong best friend at the same time, it was very painful for us seeing our own dad shrink into a child. Not knowing what to do or how to ‘fix’ it. The Dream House is an empathy story. It is about friendship, grief and growth. What’s truly remarkable are Gwen’s incredibly moving illustrations–how true to my memory they are. And it is just a pleasure to bring to life and share the beauty of the Dream House with young readers.
Many thanks to Laura for sharing her experiences and inspirations with us. They have certainly helped shape a very powerful story which will stay with readers for a long time afterwards. 12+
*Thank you to Piccadilly Press for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour*