This review is from: Heaven Eyes (Paperback)
Arguably a bleak story that gradually forges itself into one of hope. Heaven Eyes follows a girl called Erin and her frequently emotional search for love and belonging, whilst still painfully dreaming that her mother will return. She is a child that hides her heart, in fear of it being torn again and is full of resentment for she is all too aware of her faults and loneliness. Stuck in an orphanage that is cold and materialistic, Erin decides to escape the clutches of the institution with her friend January Carr. With an uninvited companion for the road (the aptly named Mouse Gullane), the three children decide that the best means of escape is to build a raft and set off down the River Tyne. But once they drift further downstream, the raft gets bogged down into a stretch of marshland called the `Black Middens'. When the boards break and they are facing imminent death, a curious girl with webbed hands, palest of complexions and strange speech rescues them. Whilst in the company of the girl called `Heaven Eyes', the children cannot decide whether she is a sort of ghost, a child with unique eccentricities, or what she herself describes as a `fishy froggy thing'. Regardless of what Heaven Eyes actually is, it is clear to them that they must find a way off the forever dark lands of the Black Middens and away from the Grandfather, who holds an instant mistrust towards the three runaways that came from The Outside.
This novel is a delicate, and beautiful piece with a Gothic air to its content. Suitable for higher Key Stage 2 readers that are looking for something a little different, predictable formulae such as three children escaping from an orphanage is given a strange turn that is specific to only David Almond's writing. The backbone of the story can be used to tackle PSHE issues and to highlight ethnic and cultural issues, as well as highlighting the importance of social interaction and acceptance. Above all, the book emphasises the importance of solidarity between friends and to avoid labelling people for what they look like or the different ways they may approach a task.
`Heaven Eyes' is an elemental book. In the way that `Once' is dominated by fire (burning of the books and buildings by Nazis, the various pain described and witnessed by the main character) and earth (the struggle on the dusty roads, dirty vehicles, etc), this book holds constant reference to Water. This unlikely theme could then become the basis for discussion (i.e. `what do we mean by this statement?' `What do you think are the themes to the book Heave Eyes?'). There are also links to Science, where controlled experiments could replicate Erin's adventures (making a miniature Black Middens, constructing a raft/discussing what things float the best and looking into evolution and mutation).