A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the main character, a 7-year-old boy, moves to a new town after his mother's death. Young readers might need help with a few of this book's references, and American children will likely need help with some of the Britishisms.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
Damian's mother has recently died, and he has become obsessed with the lives of the Saints, learning about them, emulating them, even seeing them in visions. He builds himself a little hermitage out of cardboard boxes down at the railway line, \"the whole pint being to live a simpler life. Not full-time, obviously, because of school.\" But instead his life gets a whole lot more complicated, when a sack of money comes flying out of the sky and lands in his hermitage.
Damian thinks it is a gift from God, and wants to help the poor with it. But his brother Anthony has other ideas. And among the many problems presented to a young boy with a sack full of money (including the thieves who want it back) is an unusual one: the money is in pounds sterling, and England is converting to the Euro in seventeen days, after which the money will be worthless. How do two boys get rid of 229,370 pounds in cash in seventeen days? It's a lot harder than you'd think.
Is it any good?
Screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce's first book hits the mark with quirky characters and a plot that is funny, exciting, and complex. Already turned into a movie this delightful and thought-provoking story succeeds on several levels. Damian is surely one of the most poignantly endearing narrators in a while. He wants so badly to be good and do right, and he's so completely clueless. Like Huck Finn, he tells the reader far more than he understands himself, and his imagination or visions or whatever you think they are (the author is deliberately vague) are blurring the line between fantasy and reality.
But in addition to the humor, poignancy, and suspense, this story has intellectual depth as well. As the boys start spreading the wealth around their school and town, they inadvertently change the economy of the schoolyard. And while a 250,000 pounds is a lot of money, it's not unlimited, and there are so many needs out there. As one boy struggles to do what's right, another struggles to satisfy all his appetites, and the whole town wants a piece, many important and topical issues are raised. This novel is sure to be frequently chosen by reading groups for years to come.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about some pretty big topics here, including the power and impact of money, economics, and religion. Why are Damian and Anthony's appraoches so different when it comes to their newfound wealth? If you found a million dollars, what would you do with it? Would you use it to help others -- or to help yourself?