Thursday, September 08, 2016

Book Review: A Boy Made of Blocks


Back when I was teaching, Minecraft was such a craze. As much as my pupils adored books, sports, Lego...Minecraft was the great unifier - they were all obsessed. I've played a little myself (hey, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, right?) and know enough about Creepers and the difference between Creative and Survival Mode to get by. In the last year or so, while I've been out of the classroom I've not really had to use this knowledge, however, and it has lain dormant while other, less block-based pursuits have taken up my time.

Minecraft swept back into my life last week, however, when I was sent a copy of A Boy Made of Blocks* by Keith Stuart to read and review.  Keith writes for the Guardian on tech and gaming, and is a keen Minecraft player - he really feels that the game has helped him to bond with his young son. Having spent many hours playing the game with young folk, I can more than believe this. Taking this bonding as his inspiration, Keith has written A Boy Made of Blocks.

And it is brilliant.

A Boy Made of Blocks charts the family life of Alex and Jody, and their young son Sam. Alex is going through the thirtysomething angst phase and is struggling to understand how he wants his life to be. He loves Jody but their connection feels a little frayed at the beginning of the novel, and he loves Sam but he struggles to understand him. Sam is a beautiful, talented child, who has autism, and at the start of the book Alex is finding it hard to be the parent Sam deserves and needs.


Then Sam discovers Minecraft, and he and Alex bond and grow through playing the game together, and it's really beautiful. The scenes where the family play Minecraft and the opportunities the game gives them to understand one another and appreciate one another are wonderfully conjured, and the whole endeavour feels real and warm. I also love that through playing Minecraft Alex doesn't just learn more about Sam and how he relates to him, but also learns a lot more about himself. This is a great story of a modern family and the ways that they come together.

I loved Stuart's writing of the character of Sam. Characters on the spectrum can sometimes feel a little caricature like in fiction or film - a mysterious, magical figure, or a loud/quiet (delete as applicable), misunderstood loner. Anyone who has lived with a person with autism or who has worked with them (as I did when working in special needs care back in my uni days) can tell you that neither of those portrayals are fair, or real. Autism is a condition with a million and one variations, and I loved that Sam was a vivid, funny character, and that he was such a vital and key part of the story - I loathe when books have a character with a learning difficulty, a condition, or an illness and make them two-dimensional and an object rather than a subject. I loved how Keith wrote Sam, making this the second book in as many weeks where I was cheered and inspired by the writing of a differently-abled character (the other being the wonderful Hope, in Miss You).

This is a funny, warm, touching and entertaining book. It's about family, love, growth...and Minecraft, and it's a wonderful, wonderful read. If you like good, thought-provoking fiction, I'd highly recommend this book.






Disclaimer: I was sent a copy of the book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was also invited to the launch party last week at Goldsboro Books, which was such fun - thank you, all!

15 comments:

  1. this reminds me of my brother. he was always playing minecraft whilst growing up and because of this, he's really into architecture and is currently doing a degree in it :)

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  2. Awwh this book sounds wonderful! I'd love to give this a go! How touching and through the world of game!!

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  3. This sounds like such a great book, it's always good when kids can bond over something x

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  4. This book sounds lovely and heartwarming - my three kids love Minecraft but I just can't get the hang of it! My hubby plays with them though x

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  5. Sounds like an interesting book. Would love to read this.

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  6. This has really pricked my interest and it isn't something I would usually think twice about x

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  7. This book sound an interesting read. I need some new books to read so will look into this. xx

    www.annanuttall.com

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  8. Sounds like an interesting read I'm always on the look out for new books to read.

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  9. I've got a copy of this book from NetGalley and I've wanted to read it for ages. I should read it soon, I'm seeing it everywhere!

    Charlotte / wonderfullybookish.co.uk

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  10. I like the sound of this one - will check it out X

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  11. It sounds like a great thought provoking read. It's now on my list!

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  12. Sounds like a wonderful heart warming book, my mummy loves to read about family dynamics in literature. Not a huge fan of Minecraft but would give this a go xx

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  13. This book sounds lovely! My nephew loves Minecraft! xxx

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  14. I think my boys are made of blocks. Seriously, Minecraft addicts! I am getting this book for me, this sounds awesome!

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  15. Sounds lovely! I really should pick up the book already, I've been procrastinating. :D

    Gemma
    http://thetravellingbibliophile.com

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Thank you for your comment - I do read them all but it may take me a little while (a couple of days) to respond during busy times. I love reading what you have to say!

Have a wonderful day!

Hi, I'm Claire...

Hi, I'm Claire...

About Me

I believe in 80s pop, 90s teen movies, and proper thank you notes. I just like smiling...smiling's my favourite.

I write here about London, food, books & travel, and a lot more besides. I'm never happier than when having adventures, cooking for friends, or lost in a good book.

If you'd like to work together, or if you'd just like to say hello, my email is: countrymouseclaire@gmail.com

Please note that on occasion affiliate links may be used in this blog. All items received for review or paid posts will always be disclosed.

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