Review: Lilliput

Lilliput by Sam Gayton, illustrated by Alice Ratterree (Peachtree Publishers,  Expected Publication, August 2015)

Gulliver’s tales of tiny people still resonate.  It’s rather funny.  My kids have lately fallen in love with Gulliver’s Travels (1939, Paramount Pictures) despite the animation’s age.  The story of the “giant” Gulliver who comes to the land of Lilliput where he helps stop a war and unite two kingdoms is a charming and delightful one for kids.  It’s a good reminder that no matter how old or dated a medium might be, a good story will shine through.

It’s also a reminder to me that while there are always some stories of little people to be found,  it’s been a while since someone has gone back to the original material of Swift’s Gulliver for inspiration.    But that’s exactly where this story goes.  Sam Gayton’s novel tells the story of what happens when Gulliver goes back to Lilliput … the crime he commits, and the very small girl with the huge spirit who just wants to go home again.

Lily is a small child of six the day a giant rises out of the sea, scoops her up in his hand and takes her away from all she’s ever known.  She later learns this giant is Gulliver, the man who visited Lilliput once before.  He’s written up his travels for all to read, but no one sees him as anything more than a crazy tale-teller.  Driven by the need to prove himself,  Gulliver takes Lily back to London as his proof . . . and as his prisoner.   He teaches her English, dresses her and feeds her, but he will not let her go.  Our story really begins six months later.  Or six years later by Lily’s perception.  For Lilliputians, a month equals a year in their own lifespan, and so our captive ages from six to twelve.   And not a day goes by that Lily does not aspire to escape her prison and return to Lilliput.  Even though each wild escape plan has failed, she tries again despite facing cruel punishment for her efforts.  Lily’s escape is finally achieved–at least in part–when the note pleading for help she composed is answered by the clockmaker’s apprentice.  Finn Safekeeping is the human boy who has come to help Lily, but he is as much a prisoner as she is, and the two of them must help each other to ultimately be free.  It’s not going to be easy.  For in order to escape, Lily will have to find the way home . . . something only Gulliver knows.  And Finn’s master, the sadistic clockmaker would like nothing better than to get his hands on Lily–and keep her working as his slave.

Dark villains, daring escapes and indomitable spirits . . . this is an unforgettable story of adventure, magic and the determination to get home again.  What could be better?

Gulliver is a rather woeful villain–who doesn’t really realize how terrible he is.  He’s so absorbed in his goals that he can’t see what he’s really doing to poor Lily, and constantly goes on about awful British “yahoos” while never seeing the truth. Our clockmaker, on the other hand, is a nasty piece of work who lives to cause unhappiness for others.  Finn Safekeeping is a strong  and honorable ally, a boy who has his own hopes and dreams that he could follow, if only he were free to do so. However, if there’ one character in this novel I love more than any others, it’s the character of Lily.  You might expect a tiny girl kidnapped from her home and brought to giant London would huddle in her cage like a teeny Thumbelina,  perhaps adapting to her circumstance and coming to accept her new reality. Not Lily.  She is fierce and determined and will not allow Gulliver to steal that away from her.  Despite the years he’s taking from her, she will not bend.  She will go home again, no matter how many failed escape plans fill the past months.  She’s not sympathetic to Gulliver despite his explanations and rationlizations. She recognizes goodness–and wickedness.  She is a real person with a powerful sense of agency.  And she’s magnificent.

Before I forget, the illustrations provided by Alice Ratterree really add to the book.  They help to set Lily’s size in the gigantic London and to enchant us with her POV and adventures.  Though, I have to tell you, my favorite illustration is at the very end of the book . .. I think you’ll know it when you see it!

The story itself is at turns extremely dark: our villains are nasty and their eventual comeuppance is neither gentle nor pretty.  This is a story for older kids who are comfortable with reading darker and scarier themes–and perhaps have read some of the original Gulliver’s Travels to boot. Despite the darker stuff, the story ultimately is one of triumph  and hope for the future. The book has been out for a while in Britain,  but isn’t due to be out on the shelves  in the states until August.  I’m hopeful we’ll see more from this author in the future.

Note: An advanced copy was provided by the publisher.

Publisher:Peachtree Publishers

Publication Date: August 2015

ISBN13:    9781561458066

Recommended for grades 4 and up.


About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on May 22, 2015, in General Posts, Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

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