We Are Giants is the debut novel by Amber Lee Dodd that is being described as “A total page-turner” by Jacqueline Wilson.
The story centres on the family of nine year-old Sydney at a time when things are not going well. Sydney’s mum is only 124cm tall, the perfect height according to Sydney. But Mum is still talking to Sydney’s dad, who died five years ago and never seems to talk back. Sydney’s sister, Jade, is growing up fast and Sydney herself is faced with huge challenges when the whole family is forced to move out of London, to live nearer to interfering Gran.
In addition to these problems, Sydney has to deal with bullies at school and the mean and nasty ‘Trolls’ of the new neighbourhood who do not accept Mum’s dwarfism as their friends in London did. Sydney retreats into herself by practicing the shrinking exercises that her dad, who also had dwarfism, taught her before he died.
But no matter how hard she tries, Sydney keeps growing, things keep changing and the family is increasingly strained. Jade becomes distant and Mum’s moods deteriorate as her new job forces her out of the furniture business she loved into an office and a badly fitting suit.
But all is not lost and with one letter from a friend in their past, an idea is put in place that might just save the whole family.
Told from Sydney’s point of view, We Are Giants explores many themes around the difficulties of growing up and leaving your past behind. Grief, loss, body image, friendships, sibling relationships and moving on are all themes that weave through the book and while the number of themes could have overwhelmed, each is handled lightly and with a great balance of humour and emotion.
Sydney’s mum’s dwarfism is an interesting and absorbing detail. Amber Lee Dodd delicately shows the reader how disabilities add an extra layer of difficulty at every turn while at the same time suggesting that with the right motivation and assistance anything can be overcome.
While having parents with dwarfism is a wonderful ‘hook’ into this story, it is actually the relationship between Sydney and her older sister that really engages. The grief Sydney feels when her sister rejects her is so well written you can feel it too and this really hits home the message about the importance of family.
We Are Giants is a wonderful book full of life’s big issues and with a positive image of a character with a disability that has been handled in a sensitive and heartwarming way. A great read.
Visit Amber Lee Dodd’s website