‘Have you heard of the tale that’s short and tall? There’s an island in the world where everything is small!’
Lilliput is a gem of a story for middle grade readers. In this sequel to Gulliver’s Travels, we learn that Gulliver returned to Lilliput to kidnap one of its inhabitants, Lily, and brought her back to London to prove that his incredible travel tales were true. However, Lily does not like this plan one jot. She just wants to go home.
We join the story as Lily, imprisoned in Gulliver’s attic room, embarks on Escape Plan 34. It is hard to break free when you are only three inches tall and trapped in a birdcage, yet Lily is feisty and will never give up. Her adventures set her against Gulliver and his misplaced ideas, against poisonous spiders and terrifying cats and, worst of all, against Gulliver's odious landlord, a wicked clock maker whose arrival is preempted by an overture of stink. And Lily, who measures her life in moons not years, worries that her time is slipping through her fingers.
All is not lost as Lily finds a colourful band of allies. She meets a gigantic Spanish chocolatier and bon viveur who talks in rhyme, a multilingual parrot called Señor Chitchat, and also an unexpected but faithful friend whose eyes speak his truth. Together, they come up with another escape plan.
As we follow this tiny person through the story, we see her giant world in all its wonderful, sensory, and sometimes frightening glory. One of my favourite scenes finds Lily crawling amongst the inner workings of a clock, which is “as big as a cathedral, as complicated as a steam engine, as busy as a bee’s nest”. Pete Williamson’s evocative illustrations in my version of Lilliput added much to the atmosphere of the story, too.
The originality of the characters, plot-turns and sparkling ideas set this book apart for me. Readers are led through many good old-fashioned rambunctious adventures and high jinks — Lily travels down chimneys, falls into muddy puddles and gets stuck in smelly socks — yet Gayton also gently punctuates his story with reminders of deeper truths. Are all cages made of metal bars? Are goodbyes happy or sad? And what of the Lilliputian custom of paying respect to their ‘Ender’ who made their world and dwells in the time before time? They remember him because they want “to remind ourselves: we all came from kindness. We all sprang from the same place. The world is a gift.”
This spirited storytelling stays with me still. But what was the verdict of some younger readers?
“Lilliput is a great book because it has an amazing storyline and it is very intriguing. You will never want to put the book down. I didn't anyway! How many stars would I rate it? 4 and 1/2 out of 5! It would be a great book to read if you love adventure!” (My 11 year old niece)
“It was a wonderful story. I loved all the characters, especially the wicked clock maker because he was creepy. I liked the fact that Gulliver stole the little girl because he wanted proof that his tales were true. I loved it when she […edited to avoid plot spoiler as to how the book ends!] like Thumbelina.” (My 8 year old niece)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sam Gayton is an author and playwright who completed the Writing for Young People MA at Bath Spa University in England. Lilliput is his second book. When he’s not writing, he likes playing old board games, strumming his guitar, and joining as many rock bands as possible (currently at seven). He lives in the UK by the seaside.
You can find him online at:
Sarah Hammond is an author. She has published a picture book for very small people and teen fiction too. She is a Brit abroad, now living happily in Chicago, with strong ties to the UK which regularly pull her back across the Pond.
You can find her online at:
facebook: SarahHammondAuthorPagetwitter: @SarahHammond9
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I do like hearing young readers views on books too, so well done all three reviewers!
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