Inspired by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Pádraig Kenny’s new children’s novel Stitch is an achingly tender exploration of what it means to be alive, and what it means to be monster. Is it how you look, or is it how you behave?
The themes of the novel are big…HUGE…but the story is simply and succinctly told through the eyes of Stitch, a kind-hearted boy who is wiser than his XXXX days – days Stitch has only ever spent in the Professor’s castle, safely hidden away from the wider world.
Content with his quiet, daily routines, every day is the same for Stitch. He wakes. He feeds his pet mouse. He completes his chores. He visits Henry Oaf in his cage.
Like Stitch, Henry has also been brought to life by the Professor’s lightning-powered experiments. Unlike Stitch, however, the “excitabubble” Henry, an earlier creation, is too impulsive and clumsy to be let out unsupervised. And the Professor hasn’t been around to supervise Henry for quite a while.
Indeed, it’s only when the Professor’s nephew, Hardacre, arrives, accompanied his young assistant, Alice, that Stitch learns the Professor is dead. And just like that, Stitch’s quiet life is upended.
Hardacre moves into the castle to carry on the Professor’s experiments for his own sinister motives. Determined to “improve” Henry Oaf to further his learning, Hardacre tries to use Henry as a lab rat.
But Stitch, a loyal friend, knows that Henry is happy as he is, that he is good enough as he is – even with his hodgepodge body made of dead things and his creative way he speaks.
With Alice’s help, Stitch, who is more humane than most humans, stops Hardacre in his tracks, allowing Henry to escape.
Concerned for his friend, Stitch sets foot outside the castle grounds for the first time ever, and begins to understand why Alice has been trying to tell him the world wasn’t made for people like them; people who are different.
But Stitch’s beloved Professor taught him a very important lesson, and it has become the lens through which Stitch views the world around him, even when it is a hostile one. Everybody is different. It is simply a fact.
Kenny has created a fantastic cast of characters who each have something to teach the other and the dialogue and interactions between the irrepressible Henry, worldly Alice and sweet Stitch help the reader explore the big topics in this novel from very different viewpoints. It is natural, therefore, that the three form a strong bond that, in the end, is able to influence those around them.
A powerful, poignant and thought-provoking story, perfect for readers aged 9+