Review by Ian Keogh
When driving along a country road a family spot an injured baby deer and take it home to recuperate. Young son Thomas names it Lion. This is shortly after his mother has died, and he, sister Lara and their father are still trying to make sense of the loss, so having a tame and trusting young deer around the place is a considerable emotional help. For the sake of the story the potentially messier aspects are ignored.
Delicate, character-rich watercolour art from Melissa Garbeli provides an instant attraction, and as this is an immersive story from Phellip Willian there are plenty of charming scenes of the children and Lion just playing. This is sometimes ordinary play, and sometimes has a fantasy element as they involve Lion in their make believe stories of dinosaurs, robots and hidden treasure.
We can become too hung up on categorisation. Everything about Missing You seems as if it’s aimed at children, and for the most part it’s certainly a book conceived for their enjoyment. However, themes of loss and grieving interrupt, and some are on a level above the understanding of children. Willian also emphasises the differences between children growing up and learning about the world and the responsibilities adults have, not least looking out for their children, and this spans generations as the family grandmother is also grieving.
Missing You takes place over a year, chapters broadly following seasons, and midway through there’s a switch. It has a later relevance, but it’s also a clumsy insertion not really required for Lion’s story. Eventually there’s a happy ending of sorts, but such is the level of emotional upset along the way it’s not for more sensitive children.