Justine has lived with the loss of her mother for two years. Even while she misses her Mom, she discovers the gifts they share. When bullying at school makes Justine’s life miserable, she befriends a tree she calls Drasil. Her father is happy when she makes a new friend, even when that friend is a tree.
She tells stories of visiting a land where peace is valued above everything else and hospitality is the primary virtue. Her father listens to her stories and marvels at how she changes, even as he wonders if her stories are true or the fantasy of a lonely young girl.
When the stories get darker and more dangerous he worries that she is being hurt even in this land of peace. He has no idea how much they will both be changed as they get caught up in the struggle between a people who believe in peace, and those who trust in war.
“Charming and endearing from start to finish. I really enjoyed this book immensely and think it would appeal to a wide range of kids from emergent readers through to early teens.”
“This has got to be one of the most unique books I’ve ever read. The brilliance of the writing is undeniable.”
CIR: What inspired this book?
McGILVERY: My wife told me about having a tree as a best friend the first year she changed schools. That image percolated in my mind and the tree became Yggdrasil, the World Tree that bound the universe together. From there it was an easy jump to traveling to another universe and being part of the life of those people.
CIR: What was the writing process like for your book?
McGILVERY: This book started with the image of the tree as friend. It became matched with an image of a people of peace under seige by a warlike invader. Once those came together, the story clawed its way out of my head and onto the computer.
CIR: Tell us about the girl, Justine.
McGILVERY: She’s one of those very bright and precocious pre-teens. She’s dealing with grief from her mother’s death and bullying at school. That is what leads to the friendship with Drasil. She is also a child working through her faith and how her faith works in the real world.
CIR: What makes Playing on Yggdrasil unique?
McGILVERY: While Justine is the main character, the book is told from the viewpoint of her father Patrick. This allows me to address some more adult aspects of faith, grief and trust. The story is very much an oral telling even in written form as a lot of the action is related in dialogue. Playing on Yggdrasil is a Christian book, but it isn’t Christian in the sense that conversion to belief in Jesus resolves the conflict. Faith is not about being saved from the world, but being saved for the world. Those who are looking for the usual evangelical message will not find it.
CIR: How do address the theme of faith?
McGILVERY: The main themes are faith, grief and love, but there are other aspects woven through it about making faith a practice not a habit and the nature of God’s action in the world.