I finished The Naming of Tishkin Silk last week. And then I reread it today, on a sick day, spent mostly lounging about in bed. It's a gentle little book. With a great big knot of sadness at it's core.
The setup is quirky, Griffin, an uncommon boy, born on the 29th of February and his Rainbow sisters- Scarlet, Indigo, Violet, Amber and Saffron have been homeschooled by their mother. Now his mother and baby sister are away, and Griffin is forced to attend to the local school for the first time.
From the very beginning of the story we are aware that Griffin holds himself responsible for why his mother and sister aren't at home.
If he were an ordinary boy then maybe Mama wouldn't have gone away. Maybe his secret thoughts wouldn't have changed everything.
It is obvious to the adult reader that whatever Griffin's secret thoughts had been they aren't going to be the reason that his mother and sister aren't there.
Griffin lives with his Rainbow sisters, his father,grandmother Nell and dog, Blue in the family house, the Kingdom of Silk, up the Silk Road (I love that, it's too funny). The Silk family are hippies I suppose, with their rainbow names, pet crow, and daisy chain making habits. Griffin befriends Princess Layla, a girl from school who also wears daisy chain crowns.
He understood right away, that a person who believed in the magic of daisies, a person skilled in the art of crown-making was likely to be an uncommon kind of person.
There's some beautiful writing especially in the latter parts of the book:
He felt himself falling, down, down, and then something warm. He opened his eyes. Layla was beside him, still holding his hand. Inside, he felt something swell, like the tiny flare of a match in the darkness. Layla smiled and squeezed his hand and the feeling grew stronger. And though Griffin, didn't realise it, the feeling had a name. It was courage.
Griffin, named after the mythical beast, finds his courage, and we find the answer to the whereabouts of his mother and sister in a bittersweet ending.
The Naming of Tishkin Silk was published in 2003, and was an Honour Book in the 2004 Childrens Book Council of Australia Book of the Year for Younger Readers. It became the first of six books in the Kingdom of Silk series. I've got #2 Layla, Queen of Hearts on reserve at my library. I'm looking forward to it.