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The Land of Decoration    by Grace McCleen order for
Land of Decoration
by Grace McCleen
Order:  USA  Can
Henry Holt, 2012 (2012)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Grace McCleen's Land of Decoration opens: 'IN THE BEGINNING there was an empty room, a little bit of space, a little bit of light, a little bit of time. I said: "I am going to make fields," and I made them from place mats, carpet, brown corduroy, and felt. Then I made rivers from crêpe paper, plastic wrap, and shiny tinfoil, and mountains from papier mâché and bark. And I looked at the fields and I looked at the rivers and I looked at the mountains and I saw they were good. I said: "Now for some light," and I made a sun from a wire metal cage strung with beads that hung down from above, I made a sliver of moon and luminous stars, and at the edge of the world I made a sea from a mirror, reflecting the sky and the boats and the birds and the land (where it touched). And I looked at the sun and I looked at the moon and I looked at the sea and I saw they were good.'

Ten-year-old Judith McPherson narrates. The Land of Decoration is her bedroom, where her keen Faith and Imagination create a wondrous world. Judith lives with her Father; Mom died at her birth, and daughter and father have a close network of belief and faith in God. They attend meetings, proselytizing door-to-door on certain days. Judith attends school faithfully, but does not observe Christmas as her beliefs differ from those of her classmates. After Judith is taunted by classmate Neil, she hopes that she will not have to go to school on Monday and prays for a big snowstorm. On Monday the town is covered in deep snow ... Judith has performed a miracle.

When Father's factory goes on strike, he is a scab, whose life, home, and daughter are threatened. Neil is the son of a striking co-worker. Neil and his buddies plot against Father and Judith at home. And Neil continues to harrass Judith at school. A fire destroys much in the McPherson house and yard. Father calls the police many times but they lack proof to make charges. Father tells Judith that she must stop claiming to perform miracles. But Judith adds to her Land of Decoration. And when she prays that a neighbor's cat return home safely, it happens. Father builds a very high wood fence, with a special lock, around his property. The besieged family struggles as Judith narrates what occurs, and her prayers and conversations with God. She prays for more miracles and continues to build her world.

Where others see rubbish, Judith sees treasures which she can use in her creation. Her story is breathtakingly beautiful and powerful, mesmerizing and harrowing. This ten-year old believer 'sees the world with the clear Eyes of Faith'. If you read only a few books this year, please make The Land of Decoration one of them. It grabs the attention from page one and is hard to let go of until the last words of the last page. It's a story wrought of god and evil, that you will not forget well after you close the back cover. And will want to read again. Londoner Grace McCleen gives limelight to an unforgettable heroine in Judith McPherson, and to the love that bonds Father and Daughter. This is an author to watch ... for Judith's miracles are Grace McCleen's too.

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