Heaven Eyes

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Heaven Eyes
Heaven Eyes (David Almond novel) cover art.jpg
Author david almond
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Young adult novel
Publisher Hodder Children's Books
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
ISBN 978-0-385-32770-1

Heaven Eyes is a young adult novel by award-winning author David Almond. It was published in Great Britain by Hodder Children's Books in 2000 and by Delacorte Press in the United States in 2001. A paperback version was released in 2002 by Dell Laurel Leaf.

Heaven's Eyes was adapted as a stage production, which premiered in Edinburgh in 2005.[1]

Plot introduction[edit]

The story focuses on three children who run away from their orphanage and are rescued by Heaven Eyes, a strange, innocent child with webbed hands and feet. Heaven Eyes should have drowned at sea, but was rescued from the mud, and only Grampa knows the secret to her history. He isn't telling. They find themselves investigating the mysteries surrounding the old printing press and storage building where Heaven Eyes lives. During the time they spend with Heaven Eyes and Grampa, they begin to see the outside world as a land of "ghosts". The children have to choose to stay in that eccentric, mysterious and possibly sinister world or to flee back to safety in the mundane world and perhaps lose the hopes of spiritual healing they discovered in Heaven Eye's world.

Major themes[edit]

Like most of Almond's other young adult books, Heaven Eyes focuses on the balance between fantasy and reality, all within a quaint and eccentric but mysterious and somewhat unsettling world. Other major themes include spiritual healing and family (particularly mothers, as many of the main characters long for a mother they have never known or have known but tragically lost).


When Almond began writing the novel, he felt that Erin should be the main character because she was the strongest and because he wanted to write from the point of view of a girl this time.[2] Almond referred to the novel's opening line, "My name is Erin Law", as a "bit of an homage" to the opening line of Moby Dick, "Call me Ishmael."[3] The abandoned building in the novel was inspired by a real building located on a "sludgy river gully" near the Tyne,[4] which has been turned into Seven Stories, an attraction that promotes literature.[4]


Major characters[edit]

  • Erin Law is the novel's main protagonist. She is an earnest, emotional, rebellious, adventurous child. She deeply feels the loss of her mother. Erin's mother lived with her in a house with a beautiful garden, and Erin often "speaks" with the memory of her mother and visualizes that place. The novel takes her on a spiritual quest for family.
  • January Carr is another child living at Whitegates. He is very much like Erin, although somewhat more distrustful. He secretly believes that his mother is a beautiful, very young woman who will return for him when she is older and more able to care for him).
  • Mouse Gullane is a younger child who enjoys digging in the dirt and finding small plastic toys and other artifacts. He hopes to one day uncover something much more important buried in the earth. He has a pet mouse named Squeak. He is an abandoned child.
  • Heaven Eyes is the strange pale child with a mysterious past who rescues Erin and her friends. She appears to be friendly but has very odd customs.
  • Grampa is the eccentric, seemingly deranged man who takes care of Heaven Eyes. He has dark hair and a beard and wears a jacket that says "Security" on it. Grampa is constantly writing in a book in which he records every thing he sees in and around the Middens, from the wildlife to the number of pop bottles. He considers all outsiders to be "ghosts".
  • Maureen is the woman who runs Whitegates. She tries hard to care for the children, but can't help seeing them as "damaged". She also can't hide her disappointment at not having children of her own, and tells Erin that she is the daughter she dreams of.

Minor characters[edit]

  • Wilson Cairns is an obese, bespectacled boy who was taken away from his violent, abusive parents. He is calm, kind and introverted. He carries clay with him wherever he goes and claims that if one were to believe hard enough, one would be able to bring his clay figures to life.
  • Fat Kev and Skinny Stu are Maureen's assistants, two sleazy men who only care about their paycheck and not about the children.

Plot summary[edit]

The novel is told from the first person, the first sentence being, "My name is Erin Law." The author then introduces the other characters, and indeed, tells the entire story, through her. Erin lives at Whitegates, a home for "damaged children". Erin's father was a foreign sailor who left her mother after a brief affair. Years later, Erin was grief-stricken when her mother died.

Whitegates is run by a well-meaning but flawed woman named Maureen. Erin and January Carr and some other children frequently reject her superficial, half-hearted attempts at therapy.

January Carr is Erin's "running-away-friend", and the two often escape from comfortable but suppressive Whitegates to live out of dumpsters in the city. One day, January decides to build a raft and float away down the river. Before leaving, Wilson Cairns tries to show Erin that the clay figures he is constantly molding actually come to life.

Erin and January leave with their raft, but Mouse Gullane, with his pet mouse Squeak, insists on coming with them. Mouse tries to bribe them with money and small plastic toys he has dug out of the ground (one day Mouse hopes to uncover something really important buried in the earth). The others eventually allow him to come, even though they worry for the younger child's safety. And indeed, they all almost die, as the raft is hurled along the fast-moving, polluted river and carried into the Black Middens, where they are all nearly engulfed by the mud. However, a strange young girl named Heaven Eyes rescues them. She cries, "Is you my sister? Is these mine brothers?" An old man whom Heaven Eyes refers to as Grampa tells her that they are not and that they should be dug back into the Middens, but she insists on bringing Erin, January, Mouse and Squeak into their home; a huge old stone building decorated with stone statues of angels. It is very close to the river. The building contains an old printing press, as well as boxes of corned beef, raisins, and chocolates. Grampa is still distrustful of the new children. Grampa is constantly writing in a book in which he records every thing he sees in and around the Middens.

Heaven Eyes shows them around the building, and Erin gets lost in a deep cellar, where she becomes spiritually lost and her despair over the death of her mother overcomes her. Heaven Eyes rescues her once more, stating that she must be careful as there are holes where one can slip into another place, a place of darkness.

Grampa becomes more tolerant of Mouse and allows him to help him dig in the Middens, which Mouse particularly enjoys. January, whoever, is very distrustful of Grampa and thinks they should leave. He begins to snoop around, despite Grampa's warning, "No shenanigans", and discovers evidence that Heaven Eyes was a child aboard a ship with her family. He suspects Grampa of kidnap and murder. When they find a body in the Black Middens, January feels vindicated, to the point that he threatens to leave the others behind and escape on his own if they refuse to come. Grampa becomes enraged and dangerous when he discovers January has been snooping. Heaven Eyes claims the body is a "saint". That night, Erin and January dig up the body and discover that it is the mummified body of a dock-side worker that has lain in the mud for many, many years. They bring the body (or the "saint") back to land, and Heaven Eyes makes a bed for him. Grampa's affection for all of them strengthens, and then, to their grief (especially Heaven Eyes'), he dies. "Lovely as lovely", he says when Heaven Eyes tells him that Erin and her friends are her brothers and sisters. Then he becomes "still as still", according to Heaven Eyes. After this, the mummified body of the saint comes to life and guides Grampa's spirit over the Black Middens and down into sparkling waters.

When construction vehicles come to tear down the old building, and erect modern businesses in its place, Erin and her friends manage to rescue many of the treasures, including Grampa's huge book. Then they take Heaven Eyes, whom they now call Anna May, back to Whitegates, where the extraordinary child is able to heal Maureen's "damaged" soul. Maureen is able to finally become a true mother to the abandoned and orphaned children of Whitegates. Miraculously, January's mother appears to take him home, and she is just as he imagined her.

At Whitegates, Wison Cairns' clay figures really do come to life. Erin and her friends vow to solve the mysteries of bygone decades recorded in Grampa's book, and to continue his work. Erin explains that this story has no end and is part of all the other stories of the world.


  1. ^ Guilfoyle, Lizzie. "Heaven Eyes - Hoxton Hall". IndieLondon.co.uk. Retrieved 2008-09-15.  Apparently published early 2007. "Heaven Eyes, presented by award-winning children's author David Almond and acclaimed theatre company Pop-Up ..."
  2. ^ Richards, Linda L. (February 2002). "January Interview: David Almond". January Magazine. Retrieved 2008-09-15. 
  3. ^ "Spotlight on David Almond". Blast: Writing: People. BBC Home. 14 May 2008. Archived from the original on 2008-05-14. Retrieved 2008-09-15. 
  4. ^ a b Richardson, Nigel; l (14 April 2007). "Literary Shrines on the Tyne". Telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 2008-09-15. 

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