Leeva at Last by Sara Pennypacker

Leeva Spayce Thornblossom is as neglected as you can get for a 8 or 9 year old (she is not sure how old she is!). Her parents sole thoughts are of money and fame, neither of which she can give them.  They have drawn up a contract between them and Leeva will need to pay back all she takes in the form of food and clothing.  Living an incredibly sheltered life, Leeva looks forward most to the Improve your Vocabulary column in the weekly newspaper.  She learns plenty of wonderful words but never has any opportunity to use them for she speaks to no one but her parents. 

When she discovers the library next door, an entire world opens up to her and she can finally answer the question her parents have asked, “What are people for”?

At the library, she meets Harry and his Aunt Mrs Flowers, discovers cookies and books. She meets new people, discovers new worlds and befriends book characters. What she also discovers is the hatred her town has for her parents. They tax everyone and there are shoe box towers filled with cash in a locked room in her house. She must keep her true identity a secret from everyone so she doesn’t get judged based on the actions of her parents.

When a horrible dawning truth rains down on Leeva, she will need to make some formidable decisions and these lead to an ending you might never predict.

I love that this is reminiscent of Matilda and her love of books and learning but also has the feels of A series of Unfortunate Events, where you can hardly believe what her parents have been up to, in a similar thread to Count Olaf.

This is going to be one of my top picks for 2023. Funny, heartfelt and joyous- an absolute triumph for the hugely talented Sara Pennypacker. Add this to all wishlists!

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