The Worlds We Leave Behind
Published: August 4th 2022 by Bloomsbury – Illustrations by Levi Pinfold (Illustrator)
Rating: ★★★★ (4)
Genre: Middle Grade // Illustrated, Fantasy
Quick Thoughts: A warm, thought-provoking, nostalgically autumnal read that felt like a true classic.
About The Book:
From acclaimed author and illustrator pair A.F. Harrold and Levi Pinfold comes another powerful and poignant story about friendship, betrayal, and redemption.
Hex doesn’t know why he does the things he does-why he sometimes stands up in class to look out the window or ask an unrelated question or do a little dance. He also doesn’t know why he threw the rock that day in the woods. He didn’t mean for the girl to fall and break her arm. But he’s blamed anyway.
Enraged at how unfair life is, Hex runs into the woods and finds himself in a strange clearing-a clearing that can’t possibly exist-where a strange old woman offers him a deal: she’ll rid the world of those who wronged him. All he has to do is accept and they’ll be forgotten, forever. But what Hex doesn’t know is that someone else has been offered the same deal.
When Hex’s best friend Tommo wakes up the next day, something feels wrong. Half-whispered memories tug at his brain, making him think that something-or someone-is missing from his life. Can Tommo put the world back the way it was? Or can he find a way to make a new world that could be better for them all?
This unforgettable story, complete with lush black-and-white illustrations throughout, explores how we can find the strength to face down monsters: in the darkness, in our friends, and in our selves.
Every once in a while, a book like The Worlds We Leave Behind comes along and makes me want to read it into the night. I’m not a reader of Middle Grade, and only infrequently Illustrated reads, but something about this seemed so magnetic—when the chance arose, I jumped at it to read it.
Hector, or Hex, is a mystery to even himself. Sometimes he does things and says things he doesn’t mean to, and it can get him in trouble. After an incident where a girl gets hurt, a time when he makes a silly mistake that he doesn’t mean, it casts a bad light over him with the heavy shadow of blame. Mad at the world, himself and life in general, Hex escapes to the woods for clarity. But when he stumbles upon an old woman in a cottage, one that offers him a hefty deal on a platter that seems intriguing—that she has the power to wipe the world of those who had wronged him—Hex can’t quite believe it. All he’d have to do is accept and they’ll be forgotten about forever.
But unbeknownst to Hex, someone else has been given that same very offer—and that changes everything. Including his best friend Tommo, who wakes up the next day and feels like something is very different, and very wrong. Something keeps telling him that there’s a figure missing from his life, and when whispers of someone named Hector keep arising in his brain, Tommo can’t ignore the way something deep in him knows something isn’t right. But putting life back to the way it was is hard enough without his best friend—and maybe putting things back in the same exact way isn’t an option, but he knows that somehow, he needs to fix what the darkness has changed before it’s all gone forever.
Overall, The Worlds We Leave Behind was something of a marvel. It weighed heavily on the impacts of learning lessons, doing the “right” thing, and how friendship is only as strong as the people that fight for it. Not only did I find the illustrations unnervingly beautiful, but the writing, too. It was such a warm, thought-provoking, nostalgically autumnal read that felt like a true classic fairytale. Four stars!
Thank you to Bloomsbury/Nina Douglas for the most beautiful package!
A.F. Harrold is an English poet. He writes and performs for adults and children, in cabaret and in schools, in bars and in basements, in fields and indoors. He was Glastonbury Festival Website's Poet-In-Residence in 2008, and Poet-In-Residence at Cheltenham Literature Festival in 2010. He won the Cheltenham All Stars Slam Championship in 2007 and has had his work on BBC Radio 4, Radio 3 and BBC7. He is active in schools work, running workshops and slams and doing performances at ungodly hours of the morning, and has published several collections of poetry. He is the owner of many books, a handful of hats, a few good ideas and one beard