My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Azzi In Between first came to my attention following it winning the inaugural Little Rebels Children’s Book Award . This, coupled with the review it got over at Playing By The Book meant that it was one book that was very much on my radar.
And I’m so glad it was.
There’s a problem (do I mean problem? issue, maybe, concern, maybe) with books of this nature sometimes becoming too overly didactic. I don’t mind that at times but I do mind it when the ideology becomes overwhelming for the reader. There’s a fine line between questioning an issue, between highlighting the awfulness of something, through to trying to impose your authorial ideology upon another.
This is something Garland handles very well here. She’s crafted a kind, warm-hearted and very very quietly provocative book centred around the journey of the titular Azzi. Azzi lives in a un-named country where her father ‘worked as a doctor’, her mother ‘made beautiful clothes’ and her grandma ‘wove warm blankets.’ One day her father receives a phonecall that they are in terrible danger and ‘at that moment Azzi’s life changed for ever.’
We follow the family through their journey the United Kingdom (un-named, but recognisable by the white cliffs of Dover) and watch Azzi adopt her new life. This is where the title becomes more pertinent; Azzi’s caught in between two worlds and she’s neither one or the other. It’s in how she bridges that gap and starts to weave the two together, that’s where the vibrant heart of this book kicks in.
Graphically, it’s very simply done. Garland’s style has a warmth about it that’s shaded in shadowy, light-caught colours that never seem quite solid or still on the page. That’s interesting and reflects the main narrative; Azzi is never really still on her journey. She’s always changing and moving and never quite feeling rooted where she is. It’s noticeable that in the latter half of the book, the colours start to feel a lot more solid and rooted, and the images feel more constructed around the people as opposed to around the world. Azzi is in her panels, owning her space, and surrounded by the people she loves.
It’s a charming, moving story and one that’s well worth checking out.