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The Unfinished Angel by Sharon Creech
Review by Liz de Jager
Andersen Press Ltd Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781849390811
Date: 05 November 2009 List Price 10.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Sharon Creech's website /

Sharon Creech is both a Carnegie Award and Newbery Medal winning author, having started her writing career writing for adults. The Recital and Nickel Malley were both written and published whilst she was living in England. Since writing Absolutely Normal Chaos (1990) she's written mostly young adult novels with Walk Two Moons being the first of her books to be published in America. She is still recovering from shock when she received the 1995 Newbery Medal for Walk Two Moons. She followed it up with Chasing Redbird, Pleasing the Ghost, Bloomability, The Wanderer, and Fishing in the Air.

The Unfinished Angel is her most recent book and is reviewed this issue by Liz de Jager.

"In an old stone tower high in the mountains of Switzerland lives an angel with attitude. The angel is annoyed with "peoples" and unsure of her (or his?) mission. When a colourful American girl, Zola, arrives, she challenges the angel, and figs start flying. Together Zola and the angel rescue a band of orphans, reawaken the sleepy village, and explore what it means to be a 'peoples' and to be an angel."

It is so rare to find a book so unusual and sweet, written with such skill, that it stays with you days after you've read it. Sharon Creech's new novel The Unfinished Angel is exactly such a novel.

Aimed at younger readers, this fable is set in a sleepy little town somewhere in the Swiss Alps. The narrator, only known as Angel is not your average winged messenger or even - as fashion these days would have it, a fallen angel - but is, rather, an angel who has a few issues himself. He explains eloquently, "I am supposed to be having all the words in all the languages, but I am not. Many are missing. I am also not having a special assignment. I think I did not get all the training."

Angel is bemused by the "peoples" in the village. We never learn if Angel is male or female, there is even some thought that he may be a pigeon but it doesn't last long. His days sound idyllic - he does a lot of floating and swishing about, very keen for a real mission, whilst beset by doubts of not really being a true live angel. He soothes the dreams of the villagers at night and spends a lot of time watching, listening and being content. That is until a young girl called Zola invades his rock tower.

Zola moves in with her father and creates a new feel of vibrancy around the place. She is loud, funny, and eccentric and Angel has no idea what to make of her. What's even more alarming is that Zola can see him, and realises he's an angel! And she talks to him, and sings and confuses him with all her talk and noise.

She convinces Angel to help her rescue a bunch of ragamuffin children escaped from an orphanage and it takes all of Angel's know-how to soothe the irate townspeople once it transpires that the orphans have been stealing from them to survive.

The novel is a slender offering, beautifully written and fantastical. On a personal level I loved the story - it is a bit of whimsy, set to become a classic. On a reviewer level I couldn't help but fall in love with it, for its story, its evocative descriptions and unique characters. It works on so many levels and I think this is one of those truly rare books that stays with you and will become a favourite to reach for during a lull in your reading. Definitely a recommendation for a stocking-filler come Christmas.

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