We first meet Mad Dog in the home of his foster parents, a kindly couple who really want to make the boy and his baby brother happy.
But Mad Dog (christened thus by his mother) waits patiently for his hazily remembered parents to come and collect them.
In time, he realises this is not going to happen and he blends in, even making good friends at school.
When he discovers his ffon, a silver-topped cane with a cryptic engraving that belonged to his family, it becomes his lifeline to his roots and his consolation in times of woe. When Aunty, his foster mother, inherits an old hotel, the dislocation to another place upsets Mad Dog.
But it is here that those hazy memories that have been tormenting him begin to set him on a path that draws him towards Plynlimon mountain and the source of the Rheidol river. It is perhaps at this point that the story weakens somewhat. However, the momentum does rise again to a satisfactory conclusion. This is an imaginative rites-of-passage story served up with credible characters.
Moving On by Alan Gibbons (Barrington Stoke; €5.99) is the latest in the FYI series (fiction with stacks of facts). The story is told from the perspective of two Travellers, Minty, an English Romany Gypsy, and Danny, an Irish Traveller. Consequently it dramatises the problems Travellers experience – bullying, being picked on by some teachers, being blamed in the wrong. It gives valuable insights into the life of the Traveller.
The characters Minty and Danny are well drawn, but naturally they present a whiter-than-white account of Traveller life. The book is studded with highly interesting factual information – none more so than the answer to the question “Were there any famous Gypsies?” Charlie Chaplin, Michael Caine, Bob Hoskins, Elvis Presley, Eric Cantona are from Traveller backgrounds. The message of the book is very positive – the future of the Travellers lies in their own hands.
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