Excerpt from My Name Is Leon by Kit De Waal, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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My Name Is Leon

by Kit De Waal

My Name Is Leon by Kit De Waal X
My Name Is Leon by Kit De Waal
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  • First Published:
    Jul 2016, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2017, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez
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1


April 2, 1980

No one has to tell Leon that this is a special moment. Everything else in the hospital seems to have gone quiet and disappeared. The nurse makes him wash his hands and sit up straight.

"Careful, now," she says. "He's very precious."

But Leon already knows. The nurse places the brand-new baby in his arms with its face toward Leon so that they can look at each other.

"You have a brother now," she says. "And you'll be able to look after him. What are you? Ten?"

"He's nearly nine," says Leon's mom, looking over. "Eight years and nine months. Nearly."

Leon's mom is talking to Tina about when the baby was coming out, about the hours and the minutes and the pain.

"Well," says the nurse, adjusting the baby's blanket, "you're nice and big for your age. A right little man."

She pats Leon on his head and brushes the side of his cheek with her finger. "He's a beauty, isn't he? Both of you are."

She smiles at Leon and he knows that she's kind and that she'll look after the baby when he isn't there. The baby has the smallest fingers Leon has ever seen. He looks like a doll with its eyes closed. He has silky white hair on the very top of his head and a tiny pair of lips that keep opening and closing. Through the holey blanket, Leon can feel baby warmth on his belly and his legs and then the baby begins to wriggle.

"I hope you're having a nice dream, baby," Leon whispers.

After a while, Leon's arm begins to hurt and just when it gets really bad the nurse comes along. She picks the baby up and tries to give him to Leon's mom.

"He'll need feeding soon," she says.

But Leon's mom has her handbag on her lap.

"Can I do it in a minute? Sorry, I was just going to the smoking room."

She moves off the bed carefully, holding on to Tina's arm, and shuffles away.

"Leon, you watch him, love," she says, hobbling off.

Leon watches the nurse watching his mother walk away but when she looks at Leon she is smiling again.



she's smiling again.

"I tell you what we'll do," she says, placing the baby in the crib next to the bed. "You stay here and have a little chat with your brother and tell him all about yourself. But when your mommy comes back it will be time for his feed and you'll have to get on home. All right, sweetheart?"

Leon nods. "Shall I wash my hands again?" he asks, showing her his palms.

"I think you'll be all right. You just stand here and if he starts crying, you come and fetch me. Okay?"

"Yes."

Leon makes a list in his head and then starts at the beginning.

"My name is Leon and my birthday is on the fifth of July, nineteen seventy-one. Your birthday is today. School's all right but you have to go nearly every day and Miss Sheldon won't let proper soccer balls in the playground. Nor bikes but I'm too tall for mine anyway. I've got two Easter eggs and there's toys inside one of them. I don't think you can have chocolate yet. The best program is The Dukes of Hazzard but there are baby programs as well. I don't watch them anymore. Mom says you can't sleep in my room till you're older, about three, she said. She's bought you a shopping basket with a cloth in it for your bed. She says it's the same basket Moses had but it looks new. My dad had a car with no roof and he took me for a drive in it once. But then he sold it."



Leon doesn't know what to say about the baby's dad because he has never seen him, so he talks about their mother.

"You can call her Carol if you like, when you can talk. You probably don't know but she's beautiful. Everyone's always saying it. I think you look like her. I don't. I look like my dad. Mom says he's colored but Dad says he's black but they're both wrong because he's dark brown and I'm light brown. I'll teach you your colors and your numbers because I'm the cleverest in my class. You have to use your fingers in the beginning."

Excerpted from My Name Is Leon by Kit De Waal. Copyright © 2016 by Kit De Waal. Excerpted by permission of Simon & Schuster. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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