Book: My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal

Book: My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal

I’d seen this book in book stores and heard people talking about it long before I went to an event where the author discussed it. I’m surprised to hear it is her debut and yet so many people at the event were already fans.

I’m always intrigued when a book is written from a child’s view, using their language and Kit de Waal uses her personal experience of fostering to share 8-year-old Leon’s story. We know early, when Leon’s mother has a baby with someone who is not his absent father that all is not well in her world. More than just not being able to cope with motherhood, she suffers from low self-esteem and relies heavily on her neighbour in the estate they live.

Her illness sets Leon up for a life of being fostered but what wrenches him most is being separated from his baby brother, who he has been obliged to look after since birth when their mum couldn’t. His father is black and in prison and his baby brothers dad is white and doesn’t want to know him.

As the story is set in the early 1980s, we have some wonderful references such as Curly Wurly and phone boxes but we also taken through the race riots. I’m particularly gratified that for a ‘teen novel’, the author has still touched on racism within the police force as well as generally amongst society.

What I expected were some horror stories of terrible foster parents – I’ve heard some real life ones – but the array of characters that creep into the book are mostly full of care and love for Leon. The book does give thoughtful insight into fostering from the point of view of the child which of course is no picnic and I’m sure it is an encouraged read in many a care authority because of that.


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