Book Review: The Switching Hour
The Switching Hour
Written by Damaris Young
Published by Scholastic UK
Publication date: 1st August 2019
Summary (from Goodreads):
Never stay out after the Switching Hour… never let the outside in….
Amaya lives with her grandmother, her small brother Kaleb and her pet goat Tau in a land suffering a terrible drought. Every night, the doors must be locked at twilight, the Switching Hour, because the drought has awoken Badeko, a creature that snatches children away to eat their dreams.
Three days later, the memory that they existed is gone from those that knew them, and those that are left are afflicted with The Sorrow Sickness – a grief which consumes a person without them knowing why. When Kaleb is taken by Badeko, Amaya must journey into the terrifying forest to find her brother before she forgets him.
Dead leaves swished and swirled around my legs as I walked. I had never seen the trees as bare as this before. The drought had stripped them clean.
Soon, I’d lost the edge of the grasslands in the twists and turns of the trail. The canopy sealed away the sky and the forest became my whole world.
The pale light that filtered down through the branches made my courage feel small. I was used to wide open space, the grassland and the lake, where I could read the sun as it travelled across the sky. I wasn’t used to being hemmed in on both sides by trees.
I started running, hearing the swish of my feet through the leaves. I repeated the name of my small brother as I ran, a song that lengthened my strides and made me run faster.
First impressions: I wanted to read this as soon as I red the summary. I love stories that bring in elements of folklore and superstition, and this book was pitched as also looking at the power of stories and storytelling. The fact that it has a focus on familial relationships, particularly that fraught mixture of love and dislike that often exists between siblings, made me even more interested. I had already requested a copy from my local library when Scolastic UK kindly offered me a review copy. I jumped at the chance to read this and devoured it as soon as it arrived!
Truly creepy and atmospheric The Switching Hour kept me up well past my bedtime with tales of family, loss and dream-eating.
Amaya is a relatable and sympathetic protagonist as she tries to do the best she can to look after her brother Kaleb and help her grandmother, especially as food becomes more scarce and she is compelled to shoulder more responsibility than a child her age should have to. At first, she follows her grandmother’s instructions about getting home and shutting all the doors before the ‘Switching Hour’, when Badeko goes on the prowl for the dreams of children. She doesn’t really believe that Badeko is real, but she does what she’s told…until one day when her grandmother has to be away from home for a night.
Amaya follows every instruction, feeds her demanding brother and completes all of her chores…but has a niggling feeling, as she drifts off to sleep…that she has forgotten something.
I also need to tell you about Tau. Tau is amazing. If you didn’t already halfway fancy having a goat as a pet, Tau will convince you. He is loyal, loving and has become one of my favourite animal sidekicks.
The Switching Hour is a lyrically-written and genuinely creepy middle-grade adventure with themes of love, loss, family and the power of storytelling. One not to miss!
“I’m sorry, Tau! I’ll come back to you,” I called out, without turning around.
I kept my eyes on the tear-blurred path in front of me. I turned the corner that hid the cottage behind the thicket of needle-thorn trees, yet still I could hear Tau’s cries.
But I knew that a dark and strange forest was no place for a goat. Kaleb being snatched away was my fault, and I alone needed to fix it.
What I liked: This is truly creepy and dark at times in just the right amounts! I really did feel that the children were in peril and was genuinely worried about them being caught by Badeko. I loved the relationship between Amaya and her grandmother, the tension shown realistically with Amaya loving Kaleb but finding it tiring looking after a baby brother
Even better if: There were more books from this author! I will be looking out for her future releases!
How you could use it in your classroom: Extracts from The Switching Hour would be fantastic to study as a way to examine how tension is built up and sustained. This would also make a creepy class reader or a recommendation for any children aged 9+ who would enjoy a bit of a chill in their reading. There are lots of themes which could be drawn out through careful reading and discussion, such as climate change, folklore and family relationships, as well as the power of memory.
Read more about the inspiration behind The Switching Hour and how it changed during the writing, editing and redrafting process.
What did other people think?
Lily from @Lily and the Fae said:
“The Switching Hour by Damaris Young is utterly, jaw-droppingly amazing. It’s creeps under your skin until it grips and refuses to let go drifting you deeper and deeper into its spell.”
Naadhira @legendbooksdary said:
“A bewitchingly beautiful, spine-chilling story of courage, friendship and fears that come alive after dark…”
Mr E @The Reader Teacher said:
“Submerged in a supernatural and almost tribal-tinged world, influenced by Damaris’ own experiences of myths and legends of a childhood growing up in South Africa, it shows the power of friendship”
(Thank you to Scholastic UK for my review copy which will now be shared with my school!)
While you’re here, why not check out my reviews of Shadow Weaver, Flower Moon, The Deepest Breath, McTavish the Dog, The Longest Night of Charlie Noon, No Ballet Shoes in Syria, Witch for a Week, Straw into Gold, Eternal Seas, The Girl with the Dragon Heart, Run Wild, How to Catch a Witch or My Fate According to the Butterfly?
Thanks for reading!