When Billy runs away from home to a local graveyard, he wants to avoid witnessing the domestic violence he’s already seen too many times. Hiding away in a World War Two pillbox in a local graveyard, Billy needs some time away from home, and makes friends with a mysterious old man who he helps to tidy the graves.
Meanwhile, Billy’s mum is desperate to find her son, and has to be brave enough to ask her neighbour for help. This starts a chain of events that ends with her finding Billy, and starting a new life, this time supported by friends and family.
Pam Smy’s heartbreaking yet heartwarming illustrated novel has a supernatural element, but is really about the terrible impact that domestic violence can have on a family, and how families can find their way back together, despite the difficult things that may happen.
Written in a dual narrative, we follow Billy’s journey of discovery with the old man in the graveyard, who teaches him about the power of love to reunite families, and Billy’s mum’s story as she begins the difficult path away from Jeff, her abusive boyfriend.
Smy’s artwork lends the book a wintry, dramatic feel, but when it comes time for the spirits of the graveyard to be reunited, her spreads are full of joy. Instead, it’s the terrible things that humans can do to each other that is the really scary stuff here, mitigated by the power of a community that cares.