Alfie Monk isn’t like other children. He is 1000 years old and can remember the last Viking invasion of England. But Alfie is tired of living so long as an 11year old, watching his friends grow old and having to keep starting again. When he is made homeless and motherless by an accidental fire he decides to find a way to grow old alongside his new found friends Roxy and Aidan.
I have been taking a long time to finish this book and I will attempt to say why. When I began reading I found the pace of the first third of the story was very slow. There was a lot of background relating to Alfie and his mum and how they came to be living for such a long time. I found all the backstory filling very tedious but I persevered because I know a few Carnegie winners where I have struggled with the start and persistence has paid off. So I was pleased when two thirds of the way through the tempo was picking up. Alfie was taken into care, Aiden’s sinister “uncle” is following Alfie, and Roxy and Aiden are struggling to keep Alfie out of the limelight. The plot was moving on at a pace and I was keen to see Alfie progress to his ultimate aim, with hopefully some last minute danger involving the uncle. But just before this can occur, the two characters readers were introduced to at the very beginning of the story, reappear to make their peace with Alfie. I was completely flumoxed by this, as it seemed to have no bearing on the rest of the current story line. I wonder if, with more judicious editing, it would have been removed so the reader could cut to the chase. Then Alfie and Aiden steal a boat – an illegal act that bothers me less as a responsible adult recommending books to year 6 children than the fact that they call the coastguard out on false pretences as a distraction! Everything ties up very neatly at the end but it was an upstream swim to get there and I can’t help feeling that Alfie should have been adopted by (spoiler alert!) Dr Heinz and Prudence rather than Aiden’s parents. My favourite part of this book is the character of Roxy’s mum, Precious Minto…genius! I’d like more of this aspect of Welford’s writing in future novels.
my thanks go to Harper Collins Children’s Books who supplied me with a copy of the book via the YLG newsletter.