Thursday, January 03, 2008

The New Policeman by Kate Thompson

I was checking out the latest Horn Book Fanfare, a list of the best children's and young adult books released in America in 2007. The New Policeman by Kate Thompson was on the list. (The New Policeman won the Whitbread Children's Book Award and the Guardian Children's Book Prize in the UK in 2005.) When I saw a copy during my shopping spree in the Trinoma branch of Powerbooks (my Christmas gift to myself), I just had to buy it. I was intrigued by the question on the cover - Who knows where the time goes? - and by Eoin Colfer's review on the cover. I love the Artemis Fowl series and if the author of those books likes The New Policeman, it must be good, right? :)

The New Policeman is about fifteen-year-old J.J. Liddy, who is determined to "buy some time" as a birthday gift for his mother - in Tír na n'Óg, the land of eternal youth. By the end of J.J.'s story three questions are answered: Where does the time go? Did J.J.'s great-grandfather kill the village priest? And what is up with that strange new policeman?

I love how this book is partly about farm life. I love how this book has very short chapters - most of the chapters are only three to six pages long. The brevity of the chapters gave my reading great momentum and kept me interested and curious. (I have a short attention span. :P) I love how J.J. and the rest of the Liddys (generation after generation of Liddys, in fact) are traditional Irish musicians and dancers. I love how music is an essential part of the Liddys's lives and an essential part of the story. I love how each chapter ends with a sheet of Irish traditional music. The New Policeman made me yearn to listen to Irish traditional music, yearn to play an instrument, and yearn to dance.

The New Policeman is set in the village of Kinvara and in the alternate universe/secondary world of Tír na n'Óg. I did not love Tír na n'Óg. I probably would have appreciated it more if I knew more about Irish folklore. (I know next to nothing about Irish folklore. :( ) I found a big chunk of the book too slow precisely because it was set in Tír na n'Óg. (Then again, this makes sense because there is supposed to be "no time" in this land of eternal youth.) I just couldn't work up any interest in the land of Irish fairies. :( But I was delighted by Kinvara and its people. Contemporary Irish culture is so new, so exotic, so wonderful to me that I found I was completely seduced by it.

I was happy to find out from Kate Thompson's website that there is a follow-up to this lovely book. I am looking forward to reading the sequel, The Last of the High Kings, about J.J. Liddy's eccentric eleven-year-old daughter Jenny. :)

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