Lost and found in the big bad city

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 December, 2009, 12:00am

Running on the Cracks
Julia Donaldson
Published by Egmont
ISBN 978 1 4052 2233 4

Following the global success of her Gruffalo picture books, Julia Donaldson stikes out in a radically different direction with Running On The Cracks.

This no-nonsense piece of youth fiction tells the story of a 15-year-old girl running away from her past, and a 13-year-old boy running into trouble.

Leo and Finlay are an unlikely pair of soulmates, but they see something in each other and hold on tightly to it.

Following the sudden death of her parents, Leo moved in with some unpleasant relatives. But she flees this unhappy home and runs to Glasgow, the Scottish city where her father's family lives.

Leo's father was Chinese, and his family cut all contact when he married an English woman. Leo is determined to find out the real reason behind the feud between her dad and his family. Alone in a hostile city, Leo is befriended by Mary, a lonely manic-depressive who offers her a temporary home. Soon other Glaswegian characters enter Leo's life. One young man who really wants to help is Finlay, but he has his own problems.

Finlay can never get anything right, either at home or at school. But with Leo, he finds a new and positive side to life, and becomes involved in her search for her Chinese family.

It's clear Donaldson has carefully researched Glasgow's social issues, and the lives of its Chinese community. There's a lot going on, but Donaldson manages to keep Leo's hunt, and the threat from her creepy Uncle John, at the forefront.

Running On The Cracks is about friendship, dreams and second chances. And while it doesn't have a sentimental ending, but Leo is left with hope for the future - the only thing she's wanted since her life was hit by tragedy.