Sebastian Nelson is a boy in search of a family. Abandoned by his mother, Sebastian is left with a broken father who doesn’t even seem present when he does show up. Forced to be the main caregiver of his younger brother, Renee, and lost in a sea of indifference, Sebastian only wants to experience the love a real, stable family could afford him.
One morning he discovers the famous folksinger, Teal Landen, asleep on the sofa. Teal’s nurturing nature brings an immediate sense of security into Sebastian’s tumultuous life. But a dark secret looms between Teal and Sebastian’s father of a hidden past. Sebastian is driven to discover their secret, but also he’s aware of how tenuous their hold on Teal really is. He doesn’t want to lose the feeling of home Teal’s presence has brought him.
If Sebastian pushes too hard, he could lose Teal forever. He could be destined to raise his younger brother alone, while witnessing the total decline of his emotionally devastated father. If Sebastian is abandoned by the only healthy influence in his otherwise shaky existence, he will also be forever in the dark about the secret that will reveal so much about his fractured family.
Sebastian's Poet was the winner of the 2007 Muskoka Novel Marathon's BEST ADULT NOVEL AWARD.
Kevin is the author of seven novels: SUMMER ON FIRE (MuseItUp Publishing, 2011),SEBASTIAN'S POET (Musa Publishing, 2012), THE REASONS (Musa Publishing, 2013), BURN BABY BURN BABY (Curiosity Quills Press, 2014), HALF DEAD AND FULLY BROKEN (Curiosity Quills Press, 2015), PRIDE MUST BE A PLACE (MuseItUp Publishing, 2018), and THE CAMINO CLUB (Duet Press/Interlude Press, 2020). Look for Kevin's 2 new YA novels; BOOK OF DREAMS (Duet Press/Interlude Press, 2022) and WHERE IS ETHAN SINCLAIR (Duet Press/Interlude Press, 2023)!
Kevin is a 5-time winner of the Muskoka Novel Marathon’s Best Novel Award. They are also a passionate and accomplished playwright. They've had twelve plays produced.
Months after reading SEBASTIAN’S POET, I’m still haunted by images of Sebby and his poet, Teal; I still smell the ashes in the ashtray; I still feel the awkwardness at the corner store.
This can only happen when characters and the world they live in are masterfully drawn. I was hooked from the first page and discovered as Sebby discovered, cried when he did, and felt his hope even in the darkest hours. At times I loved and trusted Teal, and at others I wanted to yell at him and tell him to butt out and leave the kid alone, but ultimately, I came to see how Sebby’s life could not have been any different.
Writing from a child’s perspective is difficult, because the child often lacks the understanding that allows the author to deal with complex issues, but Kevin Craig has powerfully shown us a disturbed world and the life-long demons that some people have to cope with without ever being trite, maudlin or shallow. The language is poetic, the topic edgy and the well-drawn characters will stay with me. Kudos Kevin.
Why don't more people know about this author? About this book? Because they should. It's a hidden gem.
The story is told through the eyes of Sebastian, a boy who has never been able to embrace his childhood. Abandoned at a young age by his mother, Sebastian is left to care for his younger brother Renee and a depressed father. The situation is far from ideal for two young boys...the house a constant stream of bodies enjoying loud music, drugs and alcohol late into the night. Then one morning while Sebastian is tidying the remains of the previous night, he comes across a stranger passed out on the couch. A stranger who looks exactly like the face staring at him from the album cover on the coffee table. Enter Teal Landen.
For some strange reason that Sebastian doesn't understand, Teal takes an interest in the boys. It's obvious that Teal has a history with Sebastian's father...we just don't know what that history is.
As the years go by, Teal becomes more entwined with the lives of the boys and they come to love him as family. During this time, Sebastian's relationship with his father becomes more turbulent and Renee is in danger of following his dead end existance.
It isn't until Sebastian is 15 years old that the mystery of Teal begins to unravel.....
This is such a heartbreaking story. The writing feels so raw and honest, that you cannot help but become emotionally invested in the characters. I was extremely happy with the ending (there's a nice little surprise in there!) and felt the conclusion was appropriate to the tone of the book.
I would defenitely recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a good read or a new author to try. I can't wait to get my hands on more of Kevin Craig's work!
"Don't try and judge people only by what you see for yourself. You have to get the whole picture, see the person through other people who know him." ~ Kevin Craig
What a wonderful message this is... most people don't realize that people have multiple stories within them, until it is too late. This story makes you think about your own life and the people who surround you as family and friends... what they think they know and what they really don't know (because you hide things from certain people), makes you who you are... it defines you.
"Sebastian's Poet" is a wonderful feel-good story that you must read!
After reading the first paragraph of Sebastian’s Poet, I knew this was a book I was going to not only enjoy but experience and savor. I was drawn to Sebastian, the young boy who’s been abandoned by his mother and left with a broken, unable to function, emotionally unavailable father. A surrogate dad to his handful of a little brother, Sebastian keeps house and makes breakfasts, running off to the corner market for supplies, dealing with the disapproval of the shopkeeper, noticing everything about him. He’s forced to take on adult responsibilities and growing up much too fast. Almost immediately, my heart ached for him; there is perhaps nothing more heartbreaking than the loss of innocence. And that was just the first chapter. The second chapter was even more haunting and beautiful as Sebastian describes a kind of surrogate mother (which I won’t describe because I don’t want to give away any of the story), but I was moved by the poignancy of his need to fill the void of the mother he remembers vividly, who meant so much to him, but who left him so suddenly.
Right off the bat, Sebastian meets Teal, a musician sacked out on the couch after another one of his musician father’s parties (which happen on a routine basis). Teal, who shares some kind of bond with Sebastian’s father, quickly becomes a longed-for replacement father. He shows interest in Sebastian and Sebastian’s younger brother Renee. He pays attention to the boys and provides affection and love that they’ve missed so acutely. I loved the characters Teal and Sebastian. The affection they shared was so apparent, and I felt myself wishing that Teal could be their father just as Sebastian did.
Broken people, abandonment, longing, aching. This book drew me in with its beauty, and I shed a few tears. It was so well crafted –- a really well-written book -- and I was so glad to read it. I loved this book.
This is the type of book that makes me feel inadequate as a writer. Seriously. I was drawn in immediately. The characters, and all of the secrets that they held, fascinated me, and I wanted to know more. The two boys, Sebastian (or “Sebby” as he’s called) and his little brother, Renee, brought out the mother in me: it absolutely killed me to hear of the neglect that they were living in. I loved that Teal came in and gave them a sense of stability, but even Teal’s love couldn’t hold their fractured family together forever.
The prose is beautifully poetic, and yet not flowery, if that makes sense. There’s never a break in the flow of the text. Nothing jars you from the story.
If I had any complaints, the only ones I could come up with are that I wish the story were longer (in print form, it would be about 150 pages, I believe), because I didn’t want it to be over; and I had to wonder about the revelation about the genesis of Sebastian’s father’s issues. I wondered how this was known, and if he really would have confided in anyone.
But these are obviously minor quibbles. I can’t encourage you strongly enough to pick up a copy of Sebastian’s Poet.
This story sent me back in time! The corner store, the shag carpet, the old cottage and land marks that put me right there but besides the familiar it was Sebastian's heartbreaking voice that kept me riveted. This story kept me glued to the very end!
You might experience flashbacks or nostalgia along the way through this quick read of a story, as I certainly experienced throughout Craig's second novel. The story and the characters draw you into the afterparty, the clean-up and the questions that reveal further questions and missing puzzle pieces.
Craig adeptly maneuvers the reader through the story that is one part a happy trip down memory lane interwoven with a heartbreaking tale of a family fractured, broken, and quite possibly beyond repair. Seb or Sebby is the main character, a boy forced to grow up far too young by a mother who quickly leaves, a vacant father ensnared by his own dark past, a younger brother who needs someone to be responsible, and a parade of party guests that come and go leaving Sebby juggling all the beer bottles and overflowing ashtrays.
Along the way, Sebby finds moments of respite when a famous visitor, Teal Landon, "Uncle" Teal to the boys, swoops in and takes some of the responsibility off Sebby's shoulders. But, why he chooses to be so gracious and what's behind the unspecified motives of Teal's and Tommy's (Sebby's father) personal and professional relationships are left hidden behind the smoke and marijuana clouds that permeate the neverending cavalcade of partying and strangers present. To Sebby, it's no gift, either. He's expected to make all the right choices, leaving everyone else to their own devices.
As the story peels back layers of hidden truth and twists along the way, Sebby battles his own heart to save his family.
If I were to compare this book with Craig's YA debut novel, SUMMER ON FIRE, I would choose it over SEBASTIAN'S POET, primarily as a matter of personal preference. Both stories are fantastic, worthy reads in their own way, but I found a stronger connection with Craig's debut. Still, there is much to be said in dusting off your vinyl records, revving up your turnstile and setting down the needle on the pages of Craig's sophomore novel, SEBASTIAN'S POET.
I have never read a book before that brought back a memory from my childhood so vividly before, but that is exactly what happened while reading Sebastian's Poet, it was not a good or bad memory, just something that I thought I had forgotten.
My heart broke for Sebastian in so many places in this book that I lost count. He is a very special little boy who had to grow up way to early like so many other kids, and it is not fair. Thankfully Sebastian had Teal that came in to his life and tried to provide for him the way a parent should and show him that that children should be children.
There are a lot of "feels" in this book from heartache for Sebastian and his brother Renee, to rage and then almost pity for their Dad as he could never quite get the help that he needed that for me stemmed from more than one mental health issue. My favourite character had to be Teal though, he was able to understand right off the bat what the boys needed, and tried to provide that for them as much as possible, even if it was something as simple as making them breakfast, or just spending time with them.
This story takes you through a very tumultuous period for Sebastian and Renee, and it looks as though one of them may take the same road that their father did, but by the end of the novel, you really feel that with the twist in the story, they are going to be ok, that even though you may have given up on yourself, and you feel that there is not a whole lot of hope for what the future brings, you really just need that one person behind you saying yes you can, making you believe that you can be whatever you want to be, and your past does not necessarily determine what your outcome will be.
This novel for me is a 5/5 for sure! I would suggest this for anyone who loves a novel that is going to make you feel (even if it is uncomfortable at times), and makes you think about what other people have gone through and why they may be the way that they are.
The opening of this story recalled the times I had come awake on a couch after a gig or a party.
Told from the perspective of nine-year-old Sebastian, the story relates how he deals with a dysfunctional family, the faint memory of a mother who had abandoned her children to escape her abusive husband, and the drunks and dopers who hang out at the house, partying into the morning hours, and leaving no impressions on the boy to amount to much. They come, they go.
Except for Teal, who brings his music, his love for the two small boys, and his seemingly hopeless quest to put their depressed loser father back on track toward being a good parent and a decent human being.
The adults share a secret, which is the pivotal point of conflict. One of them thinks the boys should be let in on the secret, the other wants them sheltered from it and the consequences of knowing.
After learning the secret though Sebantian's eyes, I never quite understood why it had been so important to keep it from the boys. I wish the adults would have come clean on that score. But the best stories don't always tie up all the loose ends.
Don't think this is a kid's book. Although the protagonist is a boy spanning the ages nine to twelve, and the story is told from the youthful perspective of one forced to grow up far too soon, this book is for all of us.
"There was something achingly familiar about the poet. I found myself compelled to stop what I was doing and examine the landscape of this familiarity. I could not place it...but something drew me to him."
When 8-year-old Sebastian Nelson wakes up to find Teal Landon asleep on his couch, he somehow knows Teal will change his life forever. Teal, known as the Poet, is a famous musician and friend of Sebby's broken father. Sebby's mother walked out on the family years before, leaving the boy to take the role of an adult, looking after his alcoholic father and little brother, Renee. It's Teal who reminds him that he's only a child and has the right to act like one.
Sebastian's Poet is a story full of heart and humanity. The characters are strong and believable and I rooted for them during their struggles, particularly the children: Sebastian and Renee. Their suffering and confusion is touchingly, achingly real. When I finished this story, on the bus on the way to work (of course) I had to struggle not to audibly sob in public.
While their journey is one of heartache, it is ultimately also one of hope. I highly recommend this beautiful book.
This book is incredibly well written and completely original. I recommended it to a friend who immediately bought it and loved it, too. Kevin Craig's writing is superb, his characters are fully fleshed out into living beings, and he employs amazing attention to detail through out the entire novel.
Sebastian's Poet is a wonderful contemporary work that deserves much more notoriety than it has received. More people need to know about this author. Please, please, trust me when I say that you will love every page of this fantastic story.
I am eager to tear into the rest of Kevin Craig's backlist!
I could not put this book down! I started it this morning and am already done reading it. It was sad that the boys parents were not able to be there for them, but thankfully they had Teal in their life to pick them up and be a father figure in their lives.
Excellent read. The characters are very real and believable. A sad commentary of the life of one so young. However, the ending is also real, and uplifting. Brings back memories of my hometown, the Big Smoke.
When you first start reading, you're somewhat shocked at how Sebastian, also known as Sebby, seems so mature and together for an 8 year old. You first meet him when he's cleaning up after his father's wild parties, and caring for his 4 year old brother Renee, because his father's somewhat hopeless after his mom left them. He has so much responsibility that a child of his age shouldn't have. You can tell just how much these responsibilities have affected him because he seems so much older than 8, especially in his descriptions of how he feels and what he wishes he had in his family. I felt so bad for him.
He knows that his mother walked out because they weren't enough for her, she wanted more out of life. She basically told Sebastian, in not so many words, that he wasn't enough, so she had his brother, because she wanted to have a "re-birth" Only that didn't work, so she walked out on them. That's a lot to live with for a kid so young.
Personally, I was really drawn to Sebby because I know what it's like to feel like you're not enough, and not good enough, and be told as much, even if not in so many words.
Then, Teal makes his way into their lives, and things get to be a little better, though there are still some major disappointments.
Teal is a major player in the novel, even though he seems like he might be a fringe character at first. There's something magnetic about him, that makes you as a reader want to know him just as much as Sebastian does. Maybe the magnetism comes from the fact that Teal is a musician, quite a famous one in Canada, where the book is based. Plus, in addition to his personally secretive nature, he's harboring secrets that impact the family in a major way. I won't spoil any of them here, but lets just say that the explain a lot, and they make the end of the book pack a particularly heart wrenching punch.
The writing style flows easily, and the transitions are really smooth, which I really appreciated. The characters are excellently described, so that you can see them in your mind's eye. I could picture Mrs. Clark, the owner of the corner store particularly well. Even the minor characters, who are only around for a chapter or two, are easy to picture. And so are the events and scenery. This book made me really want to have the chance to see The Eaton Centre in Toronto at Christmas.
The major lesson I came away with from this book is that most of the time, keeping secrets hurts more than it helps. And if they've been kept too long, it'll may be too late to repair the damage once they're out in the open.
Just a warning for anyone who gets squeamish easily there are some violent scenes that involve some blood, but nothing major. I just wanted to put that out there as a small warning to people who are particularly sensitive to that sort of thing.
This is an excellent book about family, secrets, music, and the different kinds of love that we experience in our lives.
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
Sebastian is a lonely boy. His mother abandoned him, and his father spends most of his time in a drunken stupor. One day, he wakes up to find the poet and folksinger, Teal Landon, asleep on his sofa. Sebastian is immediately drawn to him, and Teal takes a liking to Sebastian as well, becoming very protective of him.
I'm not going to give this book an in-depth review, because I don't feel qualified to do so. I read it because I previously read Craig's book, "Summer on Fire," and thoroughly enjoyed it. However, "Sebastian's Poet" is intended for a significantly younger audience (and SoF was aimed at young adults). I don't know enough about the conventions of writing for young people to be able to critically evaluate it. I even feel guilty giving it only three stars, but it would be dishonest to do anything else because that's how I felt as a reader - I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it, either.
I will say that Craig handles the whole mystery surrounding Teal and his interest in Sebastian with great dexterity - the truth didn't dawn on me until very soon before it was revealed (if you follow my reviews, you'll know how unusual that is). Also, the family dynamics, and the revelation of the reason for the father's behaviour were likewise strategically arranged for maximum impact. At times, I thought there was too much tell and not enough show, and that conflicts were often resolved too easily and quickly. However, in the context of YA fiction, these are likely strengths and not weaknesses.
I enthusiastically recommend this book for tweens and young teenagers.
From the very beginning this book had me intrigued, and as I finished the last page I was sad that it was over. While heartbreaking at times, it also is a story that will leave you hopeful. The characters will tug at your heart and pull you deeper into their world. Kevin Craig does an excellent job of writing this beautiful, yet tragic tale through the eyes of a child caught in an unfortunate situation. The thoughts and feelings come through so well with Craig's lyrical prose that you will instantly be drawn in and feel yourself experiencing the same emotions as the characters. Although the story at times may seem a bit dark, it is very real and believable. Sebby's story will linger in your mind long after you have finished reading it.
This was a goodreads giveaway I was very pleased to have won.
The story that Kevin Craig wrote held me from the first page to the last. I became so attached to Sebby and what was happening to him that I found myself laughing and crying as the story progressed. The book is poignantly beautiful and brings to us a feeling of what it was like to have lived during that time.
Having read three of Mr. Craig's works, I can say without hesitation he is one of the finest story tellers I've been privileged to read.
Poignant and Beautifully Written. Wish I could give it more stars. I was immediately drawn in by the lush prose and the tragic reality of Sebastian's situation, told first-person by a too-old-for-his-age almost-nine year old boy through the next few years of his life. It felt so terribly real (even though it's firmly set in the late 70's). I kept wondering how many kids grew/grow up this way or worse. I might have found it too sad (I usually read pretty light stuff), if not for the (believably imperfect) hero and the positive impact he was able to make on Sebastian's life. This haunting story is extremely well told, with great characterization and compelling tension throughout. I enjoyed the period name-dropping, too.
This story is told deep in the point of view of a little boy who trying to keep his tattered family together, looking after his wild baby brother and drunken father, with rays of hope provided by a sometimes mysterious family friend.