The Kicking Tree
Church Times Bookshop £8.10 (Use code
IN TREVOR STUBBS's extended Christian allegory, two teenagers
literally living on different planets are brought together by a
mystery white gate in their local parks.
Jack Smith has finished his A levels, and lives with his mother
in a dull Midlands town, unfulfilled and aimless, kicking the tree
by his gate which stubbornly refuses to die, while Jalli lives
under the three suns of Planet Raika with her grandmother, cheerful
and hard-working, but plagued by a stalker. The rest of her family
died in an accident when she was only three.
Each of their adventures is orchestrated by a mysterious
Creator. They are sent through white gates in the middle ground
between their worlds with the kit they need for the journey and no
more. Sometimes it's to help them grow as people; sometimes they
are sent to help others as an answer to prayer, all over the
universe, including outer space. I particularly liked the vision of
a future where an entire village of people travels for years to a
different planet, and Jalli foils an attack by space pirates. Each
experience teaches them a lesson, and, in having them, they fall in
The characters are increasingly amiable young people who leave
no strong impression on the reader. This is, however, an updated
Pilgrim's Progress, where narrative drive is more
important than the creation of characters. It could be a perfect
book for the adult-literacy teacher trying to encourage teens to
read, with its strong narrative structure, simple vocabulary, and
positive, active role-models. There are all too few authors who
write well for this market, and Stubbs is one of them.
One small quibble! He over-uses the exclamation mark! As he's
promised us more White Gates writing, perhaps he could use fewer
Fiona Hook is a writer and EFL teacher.