Volumes A to H
Author appreciation – This is the first book I’ve read by Aussie author Karen Foxlee and I’m equal parts kicking myself for not being aware of her brilliance sooner, but also quite excited to realise that along with Lenny’s Book of Everything, Karen has published four other novels. (Dear Santa, I know what I want for Christmas…)
Beautiful story – Lenny’s brother, Davey, has a rare form of gigantism. At age seven he’s already the size of an adult and his growth shows no signs of stopping. Lenny loves her younger brother, but it’s sometimes hard to grapple with the emotional gravity of their lives.
One thing Lenny and Davey look forward to arriving each week is the latest intriguing instalment of Burrell’s Build-It-at-Home Encyclopedia, which allows them to become experts on topics such as beetles and eagles, and dream about the places they can visit one day. But the window for adventure becomes smaller as Davey becomes bigger and his health deteriorates, much to his family’s distress.
Family dynamics – Even though Lenny knows Davey is going through a lot, she still has her realistic moments where she gets utterly fed up with him (and vice versa).
For every soft moment, there’s an equal ‘I want to launch you into outer space’ moment. (As the ancient saying goes: If a little brother falls in a forest because you pushed him after he stole your Lego, and your mum’s not around to hear it, will he still make a sound and tell on you?). But Lenny knows her situation with Davey is different and is quite introspective about it:
“What if I said I was ashamed of him sometimes? Everyone loved him but I was ashamed of how big he was and how he needed a grown-up chair and how much he leaned and how he was so loud and happy when he talked about tractors. And what if I told her the shame of being ashamed was even worse than the shame? The shame of being ashamed made me feel hot and sweaty and wild, like I was growing fur, like I was a werewolf.” (pg. 121)
Volumes I to Q
Knowledge – Lenny learns a lot of fascinating things from her encyclopedia but she also gains invaluable knowledge about life along the way. She learns that you can both love and loathe your absent father, she learns that her mother is complicated, incredible and fiercely loving, she learns that you can be eleven years old and have a whole world of worry trapped in your body like a beetle in a jar, and she learns that love sometimes means letting go.
Nostalgia – The novel is set in the 1970s and has such a charm about it. Even if you weren’t born in that era, the nostalgia is palpable and can activate all sorts of memories of being a kid. And for a younger person reading this I can imagine it would be an engaging time and place to discover.
Volumes R to Z
Superb characters – Lenny and Davey aren’t the only amazing people you’ll meet along the way. There’s also their mother, Cynthia Spink, Mrs. Gaspar their eccentric neighbour who babysits them and Lenny’s school friends, shy Matthew and energetic CJ, just to name a few. Karen’s writing is so beautiful and descriptive that you’ll feel the characters come alive so vividly.
Zest for life – This novel deals with many heartbreaking moments (fair warning, you will probably cry at some point. I won’t say too much but the culmination of a plot about a pair of field glasses was one of the things that set me off!). But there’s also themes of hope, compassion, finding beauty in the world and other people and also love. It will make you want to go out and live your best life, and to find what makes you happy.
Lenny’s Book of Everything is like a hug for the soul. In the words of Davey, “Holy Batman!” is this book stunning.