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Lenny's Book of Everything

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I knew my brother. I knew when he talked too much about Timothy his imaginary pet eagle. He was scared.
'Whatever you do,' I said to Davey on the walk to school, 'Do not tell people about your eagle. Do not tell Miss Schweitzer about your eagle.'
He looked crestfallen. His shoulders slumped. He looked to make sure Timothy hadn't fallen off.

Lenny, small and sharp, has a younger brother Davey who won't stop growing - and at seven is as tall as a man. Raised by their single mother, who works two jobs and is made almost entirely out of worries, they have food and a roof over their heads, but not much else.

The bright spot every week is the arrival of the latest issue of Burrell's Build-It-at-Home Encyclopedia. Through the encyclopedia, Lenny and Davey experience the wonders of the world - beetles, birds, quasars, quartz - and dream about a life of freedom and adventure, visiting places like Saskatchewan and Yellowknife, and the gleaming lakes of the Northwest Territories. But as her brother's health deteriorates, Lenny comes to accept the inevitable truth; Davey will never make it to Great Bear Lake.

An outstanding novel about heartbreak and healing by an award-winning author.

352 pages, Hardcover

First published November 1, 2018

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About the author

Karen Foxlee

17 books226 followers
Karen Foxlee is an Australian author who lives and writes in Queensland. Her young adult novels The Anatomy of Wings (UQP/Knopf/Atlantic) and The Midnight Dress (Knopf/UQP/Hot Key Books) have been published internationally to much acclaim. The Anatomy of Wings won the Commonwealth Writers Prize Best First Book 2008 (South Asia/Pacific), the Dobbie Award 2008, and a Parent’s Choice Gold Award in the U.S. The Midnight Dress was selected as an ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults title in 2014. Foxlee’s first middle grade novel Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy (Knopf / Hot Key Books) was published in January 2014 and to date has received several starred reviews.

Karen Foxlee was born in Mount Isa, Queensland in 1971. She has worked most of her adult life as a registered nurse, has a Bachelor of Arts Degree with a major in creative writing, and lives in Gympie, Australia.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 517 reviews
Profile Image for Kylie D.
464 reviews508 followers
August 30, 2019
A wonderful book, both sad and uplifting at the same time. Lenny is a young girl who lives with her mother and younger brother Davey after her father has walked out of their lives. When Davey is born, a perfectly normal, healthy baby, Lenny's mother has a "dark heart feeling" and says that "Something's not right." Then, on Davey's fifth birthday, he starts to grow. He is four foot nine by the time he turns six, and he doesn't stop there. He keeps growing.

Then Lenny's mother enters a competition to win an encyclopaedia set, which she wins, and the children start to receive a new issue every week. Lenny fixates on bugs and beetles, where Davey loves birds, especially birds of prey. He has an imaginary golden eagle friend named Timothy, who he feeds imaginary crumbs. Then Davey learns of log cabins, and decides he wants to build one on Great Bear Lake in Canada.

This is a lovely book, told over a few years of the children's lives. It tells of the wonders of growing up and learning, and also the hardships of living with someone you love who is "different". Karen Foxlee tells a beautiful tale, you become fully invested in the children's lives and don't want this book to end. Yet end, sadly, it does...

This is a book everyone, young or old, should read. It will stay with you for a long time.

My thanks to Allen & Unwin for an uncorrected proof to read and review. The opinions are entirely my own.
Profile Image for Sharon.
987 reviews193 followers
January 11, 2019
Not long after David (Davey) was born his mother, Cynthia Spink’s (Cindy) knew there was something not quite right about him. It shortly became clear that he was growing faster than he should something that never happened with her first born, Lenore (Lenny). Once Davey turned five Cindy’s husband Peter got on a greyhound bus and never came back. Cindy was left a single parent to raise her two children on her own.

Raising two children on your own didn’t come cheap, so Cindy had no other option than to go to work each day to keep the wolf from the door. It was soon realized that Davey had a rare condition where he couldn’t stop growing, but with that came new clothes and shoes as he was growing out of his old ones quicker than you could blink your eyes. Cindy is always worrying about how she will cope with the never ending bills and she worries about her children especially, Davey.

When Cindy enters a competition to win the Burrell’s Build-it-at-Home Encyclopedia set she didn’t imagine she would win, but she did. Each week the latest issues arrives and it’s here where Lenny and Davey discover a whole new world of birds, beetles and many other creatures and places they had never heard of. With each new issue came new adventures and once again, Lenny and Davey were taken on a journey like no other. With each passing month Davey continues to grow, only doctors are at a loss as to how to manage his condition.

I have to say how surprised I was about this book as it truly was a pleasure to read and one in which I thoroughly enjoyed. I’ve had this book sitting on my bookshelf for quite some time and as soon as I finished reading it, I asked myself why didn’t I read this one sooner. This book is listed as Young Adult or for children from the age of ten, but in my opinion, it’s suitable and would be enjoyed by all ages. Highly recommended.

With thanks to the publishers Allen & Unwin for my uncorrected proof copy to read and review.

Profile Image for Veronica ⭐️.
970 reviews196 followers
December 31, 2018
Heartbreaking and uplifting – this book is everything every reviewer has said....and more.

In Lenny’s Book of EverythingKaren Foxlee wanted to convey love in all its forms, sibling love, motherly love, neighbourly love and what it means to love someone who is different and the emotions that go with it. What I find she has also conveyed was the feelings of shame and self loathing when sometimes that love slips and you are left feeling embarrassed, even annoyed by this person you are meant to love.

Foxlee’s writing is reminiscent of Sofie Laguna’s The Eye of the Sheep (one of my all time favourite reads) only it’s not as complicated making it excellent for younger readers.
‘She was thin with worry our mother. She was made almost entirely out of worries and magic.’ - Lenore Spink

The story is narrated by Lenny as she worries about her mother, her brother and her absent father. She tells the story of her brother’s ‘growing’ as it is at first brushed off as tall family genes, then visits to the specialist, stays in hospital and how a community comes together to give help.

Foxlee has created a likeable and realistic cast of characters. Cynthia Spink with all her worries, Mrs Gaspar, the Hungarian neighbour, and her strange dreams, Lenore and her beetle mania and Davey, it was easy to see why everyone loved him.

In Lenny’s Book of Everything Foxlee captures life in the early 70’s where man has recently landed on the moon and knowledge comes from encyclopaedias (not the internet) via weekly instalments arriving through the mail. Lenny’s family won their set of encyclopaedias which would have been akin to winning the lottery. A set of encyclopaedias on your bookshelf in the 70’s was like a status symbol and I remember eagerly purchasing the new issue from the newsagent each week and like Lenny and Davey poring over the facts and pictures in each book.

Lenny comes across as a bit of a tomboy, a deep thinker and a deep feeler. She bristled, she felt ashamed, she took on a lot of her mother’s stoicism but mostly she loved.

Lenny’s Book of Everything is a heartbreaking and wonderful read full of the kindness of people everywhere.

*I received an uncorrected proof copy from the publisher.
Profile Image for sAmAnE.
493 reviews83 followers
July 9, 2021
وقتی ناراحتی، ناراحتی را توی قلبت احساس می‌کنی و وقتی عاشق شده باشی، عشق را هم توی قلبت حس می‌کنی. قلب همیشه یا به درد می‌آید یا می‌لرزد یا محکم به سینه می‌کوبد یا از بیچارگی سست می‌شود و آهسته می‌تپد.
لنی و دیوی دو خواهر و برادر هستند که همراه مادرشون زندگی می‌کنند، پدرشون اون‌ها رو ترک کرده و همین مسئله باعث شده که خیلی فشار زندگی روی مادر لنی باشه. اون‌ها مدتی مشترک رایگان یک مجموعه دانشنامه می‌شوند که برای بچه‌ها خیلی مهم و دوست‌داشتنیه، مجله‌ای که با توجه به حروف الفبا اطلاعاتی در مورد حشرات، حیوانات و ... بهشون میده. کتاب تم تخیلی داره بخاطر مشکلاتی که برای دیوی پیش میاد. داستان از زبون لنی، دختر خانواده روایت میشه، دختر با احساس و فهمیده‌ای که در صدد پاسخ به هزاران سوال توی سرشه...
🐛 🕷🪰
قدرت داستان‌پردازی و خیال‌بافی این خواهر و برادر خیلی دوست داشتم. لنی و دیوی هر دو قدرت تخیل بالایی دارند و کنجکاوند و مشتاق یادگیری. اون‌ها آرزوهای بزرگی در سر دارند.
🦋 🪳🪲
در کل کتاب پرکششی برای من بود و بی‌وقفه خوندم. تا مدت‌ها فکرم درگیر تک‌تک شخصیت‌های داستان بود.
Profile Image for Zanni Louise.
Author 37 books33 followers
August 1, 2018
Note to self: Do not leave the last two chapters of a stunningly moving book like LENNY’S BOOK OF EVERYTHING to read on the plane to Sydney, without packing tissues and dark glasses. Holy Batman, as one of the main characters, Davey, would say ... this is quite a read!
One of my favourite Australian authors, Karen Foxlee, has created a beautiful story about sibling love, family, longing, illness, neighbourhood, beetles, eagles ... and, well, just about everything. This is not just a kid’s book - it’s an everyone book. It’s along the vein of The Book Thief and God of Small Things (two of my favourite books).
I was lucky enough to be sent the advanced reading copy. When this stunning read becomes available later in the year through Allen & Unwin, you need to buy a copy and read it, and re-read it, and keep it on your bookshelf to lend to friends. And buy tissues. And dark glasses, if reading on a plane.
Profile Image for Amanda - Mrs B's Book Reviews.
1,914 reviews271 followers
January 5, 2019
4.5 stars
Lenny’s Book of Everything is a 2018 release written by Australian author Karen Foxlee, published by Allen and Unwin. It has been classified as a middle grade (ages 10+) book, but it is a story that I feel has such widespread appeal that it can be enjoyed both young and adult readers alike. The promotional material slotted inside my copy of Lenny’s Book of Everything stated, ‘discover the wonder of the world and the beauty of being alive’. This is a perfect description of a brilliant novel. Lenny’s Book of Everything is a story that quietly surprised me with its understated, but sheer beauty.

Lenny (short for Lenore) Spink is the young narrator of Karen Foxlee’s latest tale. She and her brother Davey live with their mother, who has been left to care for her children single-handedly and hold down a job at the local retirement home. Davey is a very different young boy, he has a rare form of gigantism, which causes him to continually grow. Life is fairly simple for the Spink family. The beacon of light in their lives is the weekly delivery of Burrell’s Build It at Home Encyclopedias, a prize that Cindy won. Each week the encyclopedia collection allows Lenny and her brother’s knowledge to expand. From the comfort of their home, they are introduced to new places, concepts, key figures and creatures. It also inspires the duo to seek a life of adventure, far away from their current existence. However, when Davey’s gigantism takes over, Lenny must rise above her family’s challenges. Lenny’s Book of Everything is a touching, heartbreaking and introspective novel. It provides a solid sketch of family life, love, sacrifice and acceptance.

Lenny’s Book of Everything immediately caught my eye due to a couple of factors. It has been endorsed very widely by some of my fellow reviewers, bloggers and major booksellers. With so much buzz around a middle grade children’s novel, I was intrigued. I was lucky to receive a copy of this book via the publisher, Allen and Unwin. I have to admit that my first impressions of the book were set high. The cover is red, very bold and absolutely stunning. It features an eagle in full flight, with the inside of this majestic creature filled in by a colourful map of well-known locales. When I opened the front cover, inside I was greeted by a stunning map of the world, which also extended to the back cover.

I couldn’t wait to delve into this story. Immediately the sense of intrigue is established by Foxlee and we receive a big hint that something epic is about to begin.

‘Our mother has a dark heart feeling. It was as big as the sky kept inside a thimble. That’s how dark heart feeling are. They have great volume but can hide in small places. You can swallow them with a blink and carry them inside you so no one will know’.

Little did I know how I would be changed by this deceptively simple children’s book.

I did come into my reading of Lenny’s Book of Everything with some trepidation. I knew that this book was narrated by a child, and I wasn’t entirely sure if I was ready for another child narrator story, after reading a few over the last year. However, my worries were soon abated and I was rewarded with a story that I consumed in a sitting. I could not stop reading this book and I soon found that I was very much attached to Lenny, her brother Davey, their mother and the other full bodied characters that fill the pages of this novel. Lenny’s narration is remarkable. She offers an original and wide-eyed take on the world around her. I enjoyed her world view very much and I felt that Foxlee fully embedded herself in Lenny’s life.

Foxlee is a master at characterisation, not only is Lenny incredibly well rendered, her family are equally fully realised by the author. I felt like I was a member of their family for the time I spent with them, watching on as the Spinks went through so many testing moments. These life sequences are enriched by the supporting players that come in the lives of the Spinks family. From the cantankerous Mrs Gaspar, to the creepy Mr King, the scatty great-aunt Em, caring Nanny Flora, Lenny’s loyal friends CJ and Matthew and Martha King, an employee of Burrell’s Encyclopedias who corresponds with Cindy Spinks. There are also the fleeting moments attached to Peter Spinks as we get to know this absent father figure from afar. There is a strong sense of yearning attached this character through Lenny, which Foxlee absolutely nails.

What I also adored about Lenny’s Book of Everything was the structure. The book is compellingly told from Lenny’s point of view, which is very effective. Combined with this is a linear and routine narrative arc. Each new chapter chronicles both Davey’s height and is punctuated by the date, as well as the letter of each encyclopedia volume received by the Spinks children. In addition, there is a side epistolary focus with the letters that bounce back and forth between Cindy Spinks and Martha, the representative from Burrell’s Encyclopedias. I came to appreciate this framework very much, along with the beetle and eagle motifs that appear between the page breaks. It adds to the inner beauty of this novel.

For me, Lenny’s Book of Everything was quite the trip down memory lane. Set in the years 1969 to 1977, Foxlee recreates a world from our not too distant past. I felt a strong sense of nostalgia, as like Lenny and Davey, an encyclopedia collection named ‘Childcraft’ was a big fixture in my world during my childhood. I would spend hours pouring over this family collection and I credit this encyclopedia collection for increasing my thirst for knowledge. Through the placement of the encyclopedias in this book, I was able to relive some fond memories from my childhood.

Lenny’s Book of Everything delivers a dichotomy of sadness and hope. There are smiles and to be had and tears to be shed, but it is an unforgettable journey. It is a rare occasion when I think about where the characters ended up after the last page of the book, but I will say this was the case with Lenny’s Book of Everything. Even now I am wondering about the fate of the characters, long after I closed this striking book.

Rousing, intuitive and life affirming, Lenny’s Book of Everything is a book I recommend to everyone, everywhere.

*I wish to thank Allen & Unwin for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.

Lenny’s Book of Everything is book #1 of the 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge

Book Bingo 2019, Round 1: 'A book with a red cover'.

Profile Image for Bridget.
1,155 reviews73 followers
November 18, 2018
Where is that 6th star? I need it to rate this book! I've bought a copy for myself and two copies for school, this is one of the most beautiful, sobbing into my nightie in the middle of the night sad, can't stop reading books I've ever read. What a treasure this is. From the moment you meet Lennie and Davey you will be swept up in their hilarious imaginations and you'll want to keep them with you as you go about your days until you head to bed early so that you can get back to them.

Lenny's little brother Davey was born normal even though his Mum had a weird feeling that something was going to happen. Lenny and Davey's Dad has gone off and nobody has seen or heard from him, their Mum works hard to try and make ends meet. They don't have much but they are happy in their world with their neighbours who care and the excitement that their Mum winning a set of encyclopedias brings. Both Davey and Lenny are desperate for knowledge about the world and about everything in it and they pour over the encyclopedia entries for hours. Lenny is particularly fond of the bug entries, she intends to study beetles when she grows up, Davey is keen on rivers and log cabins and exploring the wilds of Canada. During the times when their mum is at work the children are cared for by Mrs Gaspar their neighbour, she who smokes too much, gasps for breath often and who has very entertaining dreams which she tells them about in great detail. It is a simple and happy life.

One day when Davey is 5 he starts to grow, at an extraordinary rate, he shoots up and up at amazing speed, an inch a night sometimes. On the outside he becomes as tall as a man but on the inside he is just a small child. It is weird. Eventually he is taken to a specialist and I cannot say more here.

I see that lots of people consider this a book for children. I don't believe that this is so. This is a book for everyone, it is so full of heart and comfort. The writing is stellar and the way that the author has made a world with few characters and places but which feels so big and real is perfect. I was so drawn into this book that I was sobbing those big messy sobs with the catch in them, the ones where you need 3 breaths to complete the sob, the ones where your partner comes rushing in to see what is wrong and then goes "oh, sad book huh?", and leaves you to it. This is now officially my book of the year. I might have to go back and read it again.
Profile Image for Marianne.
3,394 reviews142 followers
January 3, 2019
“Sometimes I felt like Charlie the Walking Stick insect, completely stuck in the bug catcher of my family.”

Lenny’s Book of Everything is a book for young readers (10+ but any age will enjoy this) by award-winning Australian author, Karen Foxlee. There are only three people in Lenore (Lenny) Spink’s family now: her mother Cynthia (Cindy); Lenny; and her big little brother David (Davey); her father, Peter Lenard Spink left on a Greyhound bus the day before Davey turned five, and hasn’t come back. It was about then, too, that Davey began to grow, too fast. Nanna Flora lives far way but rings once a month.

Cindy works hard as a nursing aide to support the family. It’s not easy because Davey grows so fast he always needs new clothes and shoes. She entered (and won!) a competition for a full set of Burrell’s Build-It-At-Home Encyclopedia, so every week, almost like punctuation of their lives, Lenny and Davey look forward to what the next issue will bring. Lenny’s a bit hung up on Beetles; Davey loves the Golden Eagle; one day they will go to the Great Bear Lake together and Davey will build a log cabin.

When Cindy is at work, Lenny and Davey are looked after by Mrs Gaspar, the Hungarian lady in number 17. Despite his size, everyone at school loves Davey, and of course Lenny does too, although “… I was ashamed of him sometimes. Everyone loved him but I was ashamed of how big he was and how he needed a grown-up chair and how much he leaned and how he was so loud and happy when he talked about tractors. And … the shame of being ashamed was even worse than the shame. The shame of being ashamed made me feel hot and sweaty and wild, like I was growing fur, like I was a werewolf. I was a monster for thinking such things. That’s what it felt like to be ashamed of being ashamed of Davey.”

Foxlee gives the reader a cast of wonderful characters: some appealing, some a bit nasty, some quirky. Cindy seems fiercely determined to maintain her independence and manage without help, but Davey’s sweetness brings caring folk into their lives just the same. The correspondence between Cindy and Burrell’s Publishing Company graduates from indignant complaint (Cindy) and stiffly officious form letters (Burrell’s), to warmly caring and personal notes.

She gives her characters many wise words: “Loneliness was like a town. You found yourself there. you didn’t even know how it happened. And there were no buses out. No trains. People had to come in. Like loneliness rescue teams” is just one example.

In Lenny’s narrative, Foxlee easily captures the mind, the thoughts and feelings, the essence of being a kid in the seventies. Lenny worries: about Cindy’s dark heart feeling; about Davey’s excessive growth; about the reason Peter left; about having a clean pressed hankie for school; about the beetles she’s got hidden in her room; about Davey’s operation; about Mr King (King of Fruit)’s interest in her mom; about her secret Great Aunt Em being alone.

These are characters that get under the reader’s skin, get into the heart and, despite the sad ending being apparent from the blurb, there will be few readers who don’t find a lump in the throat or tears welling by the last few chapters. The comparison to The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas? This one is much better than that! A moving and heart-warming read.
This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by Allen&Unwin.
Profile Image for Kate Forsyth.
Author 88 books2,315 followers
January 22, 2020
I adore Karen Foxlee’s books! Her writing is so delicate and yet so powerful. Lenny’s Book of Everything is the story of a small, vulnerable family living together in a small American town in the 1970s. Lenny and her brother Davey are being raised by their mother Cynthia, their father having left and never come back. They are very poor, and Cynthia works two jobs to support them. Lenny is a prickly little girl, wary of being hurt, longing for something she cannot articulate. One day they win a set of encyclopaedias, with one book arriving every few weeks. And so they begin at A, and work their way on through the alphabet. The encyclopaedias enchant them, and give them a taste for the wonder of the world, and – as Davey grows and grows and grows – turns into a source of comfort for them. For Davey has a type of pituitary gigantism, and soon Lenny will need all her strength to endure his loss.

Such a beautiful, sad book. Even thinking about it brings a lump into my throat. And I’ve been thinking about it a lot since I finished it. A truly unique creation.
Profile Image for Allen and Unwin.
9 reviews410 followers
November 16, 2018
"A beautiful read. I savoured every word and loved every character … such a big heart and not a beat out of place." - Melina Marchetta, author of Looking for Alibrandi

"Lenny’s Book of Everything is a tough, tender and beautiful piece of work that left me aching." -
Glenda Millard, author of The Stars at Oktober Bend and A Small Free Kiss in the Dark

"You come to care so deeply for the characters that you want to move into their little flat and look after them. They are so alive, so full of heart, curiosity and imagination, that even when tragedy comes to stay, their relationships are illuminated by joy. Told with the piercing honesty and clarity of a child, this story holds life lessons for everyone. W is for Wonderful, and that is Lenny’s Book. Unforgettable." - Anna Fienberg, author of Tashi

"The story of Lenore’s younger brother dying of a rare form of gigantism, intertwined with her own longing to find her father, could have been heartrendingly grim. Though I defy you to read it without tears, Lenny’s Book of Everything is warm, humorous, absolutely real, and above all, uplifting. It’s also the best book I’ve read this year: Karen Foxlee, you’re a genius." - Wendy Orr, author of Dragonfly Song

Staff reviews:
"This is a story with a huge heart, and a writer with a deep understanding of humanity. Beautifully conceived and brilliantly executed, I think Lenny’s Book of Everything is a masterpiece."

"Move aside The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. Move aside Wonder. Lenny’s Book of Everything is here."

"Lenny is rare and incredibly special."

"A story full of love and sadness, optimism, curiosity, kindness, humour, generosity, friendship, yearnings, day-to-day heroism, innocence and imagination … It deserves to become a classic."
Read more of our staff reviews here: http://thingsmadefromletters.com/blog...
Profile Image for Megan Maurice.
Author 2 books4 followers
January 16, 2019
I just cried and cried and cried. What a beautiful book, but my god it’s so sad. You need to be mentally prepared before you read it, but if you are mentally prepared, I highly recommend it. Lenny is such an intricately written character who has all these feelings that we tend to squash down. I love all her imperfections and honesty.
Profile Image for Allyce Cameron.
374 reviews20 followers
January 16, 2019
”Our mother had a dark heart feeling. It was as big as the sky kept inside a thimble. That’s how dark heart feelings are. They have great volume but can hide in small places. You can swallow them with a blink and carry them inside you so no-one would know.”

This book destroyed me. I spent the last 30 or so pages sobbing like my heart was breaking. And it was breaking.

This is a such a special book and I just don’t know the right words to really do it justice. Karen Foxlee has made me fall in love with all of the characters, word by word, from the very first page and I never wanted it to end.

The writing reminded me a lot of “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” which I also adored, in the beautiful and heart wrenching, simple and piercing worldview of a child. Honestly I think this is more a book for adults than children, and I highly recommend you read it.
Profile Image for Gaby.
264 reviews42 followers
January 1, 2019
My first book finished in 2019 and "Holy Batman" it was everything.

I had read excerpts and blurbs about Lenny's Book of Everything, but not one of them lived up to how emotionally-charged and meaningful this book felt to me. I became so invested in not only Lenny, Davey and Cyn-thi-a, but also the cast of characters surrounding them, even the repugnant Mr King (yes!) exited the book in an endearing fashion. These people were real and beautiful, from the school Principal surreptitiously washing their dishes to the lonely impostor, Great-Aunt Em.

I knew, not long in, that I would be crying by the time I reached the end - but often I was also left in hysterical fits of mirth from a simple throw-away comment or scenario. Interactions such as this...
"Be a good girl," said Mother to me.

"I will be," I said.

She meant, Don't go and find a weird lady and pretend she is your family.

Lenny's Book of Everything is about grief and loss but also about family and friendships, communities supporting each other and how people love and show their love.

I read this book to judge if it would be an appropriate inclusion in my library for my Years Five and Six students, but now I want to recommended it to everyone from 12+!
Profile Image for Jacqueline Harvey.
Author 100 books283 followers
December 22, 2018
Karen Foxlee, you are a genius. This is one of the best books (if not THE best book) I have read in years. I was very glad to be reading the last few chapters on my own in bed this morning with tissues beside me. There were tears and sobs - it was wonderful. Such well drawn characters and your use of metaphors and similes - well I'll be using some examples in my next writing workshops to show how a true expert does it. Congratulations Karen - a truly beautiful story.
Profile Image for Tabitha Bird.
Author 2 books169 followers
May 30, 2020
A gorgeous book of everything! Lenny was divine and heartbreaking and did I mention she was divine? And Davey..oh, my heart. What a beautiful story of love in all its many forms and what it means to grieve. Loved it.
Profile Image for Allison Rushby.
Author 39 books296 followers
November 17, 2018
Oh, my. I'd been looking forward to reading Lenny's Book of Everything for so long and it certainly didn't disappoint. I always wait eagerly to read Karen's books, because her writing is so beautiful. I mean, just look at the first few lines... 'Our mother had a dark heart feeling. It was as big as the sky kept inside a thimble. That's how dark feelings are. They have great volume but can hide in small places. You can swallow them with a blink and carry them inside you so no one will know'. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. My favourite Karen Foxlee book so far!
Profile Image for Alicia.
1,256 reviews54 followers
October 4, 2022
Lenny's little brother Davey keeps growing.
The story is told month by month, with updates on Davey's height, and what volume of encyclopedia comes in the mail on Friday as the children pour over everything. This is pretty slow, but picks up in the last 50 pages or so. There isn't a huge amount going on before then, and I can't say children would particularly enjoy this book (it took one of mine six months to get through 250 pages, but they just kept losing interest and eventually gave up) and the ending! Do we really need to be ripping our kid's hearts apart like that? Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed having my heart trampled on, I just don’t think it’s a particularly great goal for the target audience.
Profile Image for Cass Moriarty.
Author 2 books169 followers
October 20, 2018
Author Karen Foxlee invents amazing worlds and introduces us to fascinating characters through her absolutely beautiful writing – the words sing off the pages and into your heart. Her latest novel, Lenny’s Book of Everything (Allen & Unwin Books 2018) is a genre-shifter in that it is suitable and age-appropriate for middle readers and above, but it is definitely a story that adults and readers of all ages will connect with and find compelling.
The characters of Lenny and her little brother Davey will capture your imagination and refuse to let go. Lenny is smart, feisty and flawed. Her younger brother Davey is actually not her little brother at all, and that is the problem. Davey has a rare condition that means he doesn’t stop growing. At seven, he is as tall as a man, taller than his father, who disappears early on in the story and thereafter is known only through myth and family lore. It is the children’s mother, Cynthia Spink, who keeps them together, working two jobs and trying to make ends meet (the ends of Davey’s shrinking trousers, the end of his bed where his feet flop over the edge, the ends of his shoes through which his ever-lengthening toes keep poking holes).
The book, set in the early seventies, is scaffolded with the structure of the regular deliveries of issues of Burrell’s Build-It-At-Home Encyclopedia, the Gift of Knowledge which Cynthia Spink won through a competition. Each chapter is marked not only by the passing of time, but by two other measures: the arrival of another edition of the encyclopedia (Ants and Amphibians, for example, or later on Quasars and Quartz), and by Davey’s increasing height, which is physically marked by a pencil line on the door frame. And as time passes, as the children’s encyclopedia collection grows, and as Davey also continues to grow, it becomes evident to Lenny, the narrator of our story, that knowledge can’t fix everything, but that love really does encompass everything.
While the story revolves around Cynthia, Lenny and Davey Spink, the minor characters are just as engaging. Their eccentric Hungarian neighbour Mrs Gaspar who has a heart as big as the moon. Another neighbour, the enigmatic Mr Petersburg, tall and pale, quiet and wispy, who appears – ghost-like – in the stairwell to collect letters from various penitentiaries. Nanny Flora – far away and unfamiliar. Lenny’s school friends, CJ and Matthew Milford. Martha Brent – General Sales Manager at Burrell’s. The local fruit and veg man, Mr King. The mysterious Great Aunt Em, who turns out to be quite different from what Lenny imagines. All of these people orbit Lenny and Davey as the two children dream of running away to live in a log cabin at Great Bear Lake, or of finding their father and completing their family, or of finding a cure for Davey’s condition so that he might stop growing.
As we travel on the journey of this story, Lenny leading us with her interest in beetles, and Davey with his fascination with falcons, we learn a host of encyclopaedic facts about the world, but we also learn about love and loss and letting go. This book will break your heart, but it will also open your eyes to the mysteries and wonders of the world. And somehow, in the midst of all that, it will remind you of love and friendship, of the joy of being alive, and of the deep well of hope that lies within us all. It will restore your faith in humanity and prove that while ‘dark heart feelings’ might be a part of the human condition, these are balanced with optimism, yearning, promise and possibilities.
Profile Image for Donna.
277 reviews68 followers
February 3, 2019
I'm calling it early - this is book of the year. Such an emotive, empathic and wonderful novel. Karen Foxlee handles issues with a gentle deftness and beautiful language that leaves you emotionally spent. Please read this - please have a box of tissues nearby - several if you are a sooky lala like me.

It is a book about love. Sibling love, motherly love, unconditional love for someone who works their way into you heart with their guilelessness, innocence and gentleness.

Davey kept growing - in size, in stature and into the reader's heart.

Joyful, poignant, heart-warming, and yes, sad.
Profile Image for K..
3,667 reviews1,006 followers
May 5, 2019
Trigger warnings: medical procedures,

Okay, so here's the thing: this is a very enjoyable middle grade book as an adult reader. But at the same time, there isn't a HUGE amount of plot involved. It's basically the story of Lenny's younger brother growing much faster than he should, but the whole thing is framed against the kids collecting weekly instalments of a build-it-at-home encyclopaedia. And, like, I'm not sure that kids will be particularly interested in it as a result???

But really, my biggest question here is WHY IS THIS MIDDLE GRADE BOOK ON THE CBCA BOOK OF THE YEAR FOR OLDER READERS LIST??? There is no way that teenagers are the intended audience of this book. And given that the CBCA Older Readers award is intended for ages 13+, I......am confused.

So. Uh. Yeah. I enjoyed this. But I didn't LOVE it and part of me feels like the intended audience isn't middle graders so much as it is people who are slightly nostalgic for their childhoods in the 1970s (or their children's childhoods in the 1970s??)...
Profile Image for SDS.
245 reviews60 followers
December 7, 2020
About life, and this beautiful world we live in with all of its wonders. About learing About those things together, and our personal passions.
Sad, heartwarming.

( reminded me of my childhood days that I too was obsessed with learning, with every little information about everything! My enjoyment of reading several encyclopedias and surfing the Internet!)
Profile Image for Brona's Books.
514 reviews82 followers
February 20, 2019
All the PR on the inside covers suggested that this would be Foxlee's 'break-out book', the one that would finally tip her over into the big time (where I've always thought she belonged, by the by).

The opening sentence told me they were correct.

Our mother had a dark heart feeling.

Straight away I had that lovely goosebumpy shiver of anticipation feeling that happens oh-so rarely these days. I knew this book was going to break my heart yet I couldn't stop myself. Even when that breaking my heart feeling almost got too strong, I couldn't look away for long. Because Foxlee breaks your heart so tenderly, so hopefully, so sweetly that you can't not go along for the ride.

Every life has times of sadness and darkness, stories like this remind us that despite the darkness, within the sadness, there can be kindness, loving and beauty. This is what makes our lives worthwhile, this is what gets us through the bad times.

Foxlee also reminds us that words have power. They have meaning and purpose. Some people choose to put that power and purpose to a negative use, but Foxlee shows us the positive, glorious, wondrous nature of words and knowledge. Words that illuminate, uplift and provide hope are her speciality. Her words enrich our lives and fill our souls with joy.

I know, I'm gushing! But I'm not the only one smitten.
Full review here - http://bronasbooks.blogspot.com/2018/...
Profile Image for Greenglasses.
157 reviews
December 8, 2019
Goodreads NEEDS to put in a 6th star because this book so deserves one!

Lenny lives with her mother, her father, Peter Lenard Spink, left them and Davey, her younger brother, has a condition that was made up by the author based on pituitary gigantism which mean he grows and grows. By the time he is 6 he is as tall as a fully grown man. They enter a competition to win the Burrells Build it at Home Encyclopedia. Lenny's book of everything is set in the 1970's around an encyclopedia set and they get a few entries a week. They win and the light of the week is receiving their weekly encyclopedia. But Davey's health starts deteriorating and Lenny's life changes in ways she didn't know possible...

Did I leave you on a cliffhanger??? Hopefully.
You have to read the book to find out the rest!!
Profile Image for Nic Ayson.
208 reviews3 followers
January 10, 2019
"Our mother hard a dark heart feeling. It was as big as the sky kept inside a thimble. That's how dark heart feelings are. They have great volume but can hide in small places. You can swallow them with a blink and carry them inside you so no one will know."

First five lines and I was hooked and remained that way, from cover to cover.

What an intensely beautiful read. It touched my heart and had me weeping, never once skipping a beat.

The author writes that she wanted to write about what it means to love someone who is different and it is this aspect that truly spoke to me. She portrays the conflicting feelings of deep love, frustration, shame and pride with such tenderness, humanity and clarity that this story and its characters left me with some big life lessons and forgiveness for myself in being just, human.

I wish I could give this six stars.
Profile Image for Morris.
964 reviews163 followers
September 6, 2019
I found this to be a wonderful book full of heart. It presents the pains of growing up, having a sibling who is "different", and being abandoned by a parent in a way that made me feel all of the emotions right along with Lenny. I can't recommend it enough.

This unbiased review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.
Profile Image for Dimity Powell.
Author 31 books76 followers
October 26, 2018
I remember, when I was still a pre-schooler, the day our World Book Encyclopedia and Childcraft How and Why Library sets were delivered. They lived in their own custom-built bookshelf and went with us whenever we moved house. I was contemplating selling them this year to free up space or failing that, surrendering them to the compost heap. Now, after spending time with Lenny and Davey, I'm not so sure. Like their Burrell's Build-It-At-Home Encyclopedia, each lettered volume holds countless childhood memories anchored in place by facts and figures now hopelessly out of date but somehow still completely valid. How does one discard their former life - their childhood - so decidedly?

And how does one describe Lenny's story. Wrenching (you will need tissues - preferably 3 ply), soaring (pack your wings), absorbing (allow for one night of no sleep), tragic (get another box just in case).

Lenny is a wiry little, handkerchief-toting girl, who for some reason, despite her occasional dress-wearing, personified herself to me as a tough-nut boy. It almost felt as if her gender was peripheral to the story, but this didn't matter as one of this book's main characters is something just as incidental but absolutely everything, love. In all its variations.

Lenny's love for her little brother is so overwhelming, she barely knows what to do with it. Her reactions are sometimes unmeasured, harsh, corrosive yet always essential. As Davey's condition of gigantism worsens, Lenny's sense of reality deepens and her grip on a shared future with him lessens. This makes her mad as hell. So too her inability to find herself again ever since their father walked out on them.

She and Davey share more than just sibling love. Their mutual adoration of the encyclopedia their mother won for them is revitalised each time a new letter arrives allowing them to build their volumes, amass knowledge, feed hope, thus forming an alphabetically-bound history of their years together which guides the reader gently towards the inevitable conclusion - the last letter.

Davey is not just big for his age, he is a universe. He is meek yet immense. Imperfect yet without fault. Gentle and encompassing. Everyone loves him yet he never fawns their love. He is deserving, the good thing that Lenny's mother guessed she was getting at his birth. All this is shown in his smile, the way he addresses his mother as mama, the devotion he shows to his invisible eagle, Timothy. None of these things describes Lenny. She carries the weight of being the older sister, of knowing too much and nothing and wanting more but less at the same time. Yet you just want to cradle her in your arms and love her back.

It's an exquisite, poignant dance Foxlee escorts us through, one I find impossible to fault. Every character is rich and complex and glorious even the repugnant Mr King. Each word sings, beautifully laden with meaning and purpose. And even though the ending is indescribably sad, it is joy too, with a capital Z. A true must read.
Profile Image for Pam Tickner.
712 reviews7 followers
September 10, 2018
Thank you Better Reading and A & U for my ARC. This is a beautifully written book and, surprisingly, is a great read for all ages as it cater for a broad age of readers without compromising plot and language . Younger readers will enjoy Lenny's story of a young girl growing up too quickly as she helps to look after her brother battling a rare illness. As an adult reader I loved Lenny's prickly relationships with those around her, especially that with her Great-Aunt Em as she tries to find some family connection with her absent father. The true delight and great sadness of the book is Davey, who is such a joy as he sees and brings out the best in everyone and everything.
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