by Patience Agbabi
Highly acclaimed poet, Patience Agbabi, has now turned her talents to children’s fiction and this novel, a time-bending piece of intriguing speculative fiction, has much for both young people and adults to admire. It deals with complex themes about the planet, the impact of present actions on future lives, bullying, family, friendship, responsibility, neurodiversity and much more, all seen through the eyes of twelve-year old Elle Bibi-Imbelé Ifiè, who is a ‘Leapling’, a child born in a leap year with the special gift of being able to jump through time. The book is full of plays on words, complex puzzles, recurring metaphors and inventive ideas. It is also humorous, with comical juxtapositions of modern realism in the depictions of Elle’s relationship with her Nigerian grandmother alongside the futuristic elements of the plot, and comical invented terms and ideas, such as ‘Oops’ moments, when things don’t go right or plans have to be changed. It’s great to read a novel with a heroine of Nigerian heritage, in which this is a very important part of how she is depicted, but incidental to the plot. Elle is centre stage in an action-packed science fiction adventure, a character whose exploits many young readers will thoroughly enjoy.