A Creepy Yet Endearing Story For All Ages - Magrit, by Lee Battersby
A graveyard comes to life with childlike wonder
Lee Battersby is a Perth author based in Rockingham, with a history in sci-fi, fantasy and horror stories. Magrit would fall in with the latter two at first glance - full of rats, bugs, worms and bones - yet the sheer innocence of the story downplays it, making a decaying, trash-filled cemetery feel more like a playground.
"I started with an idea - of a cemetery with no entrance, no exit, surrounded by buildings that had enclosed it completely, and went from there. Everything after that is my fault..."
Living with the dead
The story follows Magrit, a forgotten little girl almost ten years old. She's lived in her graveyard for as long as she can remember; scavenging food from thrown-away trash bags, sleeping in a little bundle of rags, and drinking from the abandoned chapel's water fonts. To keep her company, she cobbled together a skeleton friend called Master Puppet, who watches over her and uses words Magrit thinks she knows the meaning to.
"I wanted the book to have a fantastical element, but also feel very real and grounded."
But soon, Magrit finds herself having to share her wonderland. A stork making its baby delivery places the bundle on the wrong side of a roof, sending the newborn tumbling into the graveyard. Nobody comes looking, so Magrit takes it upon herself to take care of the child - much to the disdain of her companion who calls it an awful, ugly, terrible thing.
An easy, adorable read
At 158 pages, large font and small size, Magrit can be read cover-to-cover in little under a day. Take it with you to read on the bus or on a break, and you'll be done with it by the end of the week. The book also has pictures and pieces of emphasised text, as seen on the cover, to add that extra layer of engagement.
"[Magrit] contains a number of components that are quite creepy (...) but the book itself has a thick thread of innocence running throughout it. I think the illustrator, Amy Daoud, has captured that duality perfectly."
It's a wonderful tale of innocence and motherly love, and bound to leave you with a smile, and maybe a tad choked-up by the end.
About the author
Lee has been around the Perth writing scene for around sixteen years, with accolades ranging from winning the Australian Shadows Award for horror, to a number of fantasy and children's' fiction nominations, Magrit having received three alone. Outside his novels, he has also contributed to short story collections for Doctor Who and Crusader Kings II. He's a fun-loving, humourous character to chat to, taking his career as it comes.
"Somehow I became a veteran without really noticing (...) I just wander around like an idiot tourist, telling everyone how cool they are, and hope they like me."