Book Review: Book shows there can be light to illuminate the way through

Zia Erases the WorldZia Erases the World
Zia Erases the World
Zia Erases the World by Bree Barton is everything you might expect of a middle-grade book: funny, whimsical and imaginative. However, it has a certain maturity that also makes it literary, moving and profound.

Eleven-year-old Zia’s a word nerd who loves making people laugh. But although her mother calls her Sunshine Girl, Zia has a secret, which she calls the ‘Shadoom’.

This is Zia’s word for depression, a term for a state of mind and heart that feels like being in a room full of shadows. Sometimes, the Shadoom is ‘as big as the whole world.’

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Childhood depression is a serious subject, but Barton treats it with respectful levity and introduces some magic—in the form of a mysterious dictionary and special eraser shaped like an evil eye—which ultimately helps Zia understand the Shadoom.

With these items, found in the attic of her grandmother’s house, Zia can remove words—and with them whole concepts—from the world’s vocabulary.

She begins by erasing ‘pool’ to avoid a painful memory of falling out with her best friends and soon finds that all swimming pools have vanished; furthermore, nobody has a clue what a swimming pool is.

Elated, Zia believes she can rid herself of the Shadoom by erasing other words and concepts that trigger it.

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However, with this newfound power over language, Zia soon learns that valuable, beautiful concepts can be closely aligned with difficult ones and, if she’s not careful, she’ll do more harm than good with her magic eraser.

Despite the seriousness of the core theme, Barton’s writing is never maudlin.

She creates delightful relationships between Zia and her mum, grandmother, and new friend and fellow word nerd, Alice. Nevertheless, Barton doesn’t sugar coat the issue: some children may develop depression that becomes a lifelong companion.

However, her message of hope (for worried parents and children alike) is that if children can find a creative outlet and talk openly about their fears with compassionate friends, family and professionals, there can be plenty of light to illuminate the way through whatever darkness may come.

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