Leeva At Last
320pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99
The tiny town of Nutsmore is ruled by two despots – the Mayor who seeks only fame, and her husband the Treasurer who seeks only fortune. And caught in the middle is their daughter Leeva, only conceived because her mother read in a celebrity magazine that a birth would give her more fame, but utterly neglected and ignored by both, used as their unpaid servant. She has even been given an Employee Manual (although she is the sole employee) that forbids her to leave the grounds. She is banned from going to school because schools teach “Human Inanities. Things like art, literature, poetry, music. Things you don’t need to get famous or make money.”
All Leeva knows of the world comes from a television soap opera, a fitness program and the weekly newspaper that teaches her a new word for the day. When Leeva reads in the newspaper that a new school is opening in the town and all children are required to attend, she sees a way that she might meet real people. So after completing the daily book-keeping problem her father sets for her, she pushes her way through the hedge and discovers the town’s library – and a whole new world as she tries to answer her own question of what are people for. What she discovers is that her parents are loathed for their tyranny, so much so that she can’t divulge her identity, but how can a little girl, a librarian and her nephew, a boy so scared of the world that he wears a hazmat suit and a badger turn things around?
This is a story that reminded me in part of some of those of Roald Dahl, particularly those in which the children triumph over the nasty adults with little regard for some of the practicalities of real life. Leeva, whose full name is Leeva Spayce Thornblossom because her mother was too self-absorbed to even bother naming her, is determined and resilient, as her instinct for survival and justice outweigh any trepidation or fear, and despite her parents’ attitudes is determined to win their love until she ultimately learns that such people can love only themselves and she opens herself to creating a new family who do love her.
The day Leeva pushes her way through a hole in the hedge and discovers a library with a librarian who knows just the right books to help her answer her questions not only opens up whole new worlds for Leeva but also an entertaining read for independent readers who like whimsical, cheerful characters who overcome all the odds.