Lilliput, by Sam Gayton (Peachtree Press, August 2015, middle grade) is the story of a Lilliputian girl, Lily, captured by Lemuel Gulliver and kept captive by him in London. Gulliver is busy finishing his epic account of his travels, and Lily is going to be the scientific proof he needs to convince the world that Lilliput is real.
This, of course, stinks for young Lily. In her birdcage prison, she watches Gulliver writing, and plans escape after escape. None of them are successfully, until sleeping drops in his coffee send Gulliver into a stupor, while Lily is briefly outside her cage, gives her the chance she's been waiting for. With the help of Finn, clockmaker's apprentice from the rooms below, who she helps escape from his own imprisonment, Lily makes it to a temporary place of safety. But safety isn't enough, Lily wants to go home.
And that means going back to her old prison, to find Gulliver's book, and free the bird trapped in a clock by the evil clockmaker in the hopes that she might fly home.
It's a story that's both exciting and moving, with the adventure/danger part of the story nicely balanced by Lily's thoughts, and the friendships she's able to make with Finn and another helpful giant. The illustrations add to the enchantment; though I read quickly, they caught my attention (which coming from me says a lot!). There's more fantasy here than just the existence of Lilliput--there are birds of preternatural intelligence, and clocks that do more than just tell the time. But Gayton's portrayal of Lily and her experiences as a tiny person in a big world feels perfectly realistic and believable. She is truly a heroine to cheer for, never giving up hope.
And (yay!) she gets her happy ending and the evil clockmaker magician gets his comeuppance, though Gulliver has to pay the price (kind of horrifically, but at least he realized in the end that what he had done to Lily was wrong).
This is the second "Lilliputians in England" book I've read, the first being Mistress Masham's Repose, by T.H. White. That book was much more concerned with a human girl's reactions to the Lilliputians and is a totally different book. Because this story is seen from Lily's point of view, there's not so much focus on matters of perspective. Yes, things in our world are huge to her, but it is what she is used to. And I think this helped the book stay focused on the main point, which was Lily's escape, without slowing things down with excessive authorial interest in matters of size.....
So in short, even if you haven't read Gulliver's Travels, do give this one a try. I enjoyed it lots.
Review copy received from the publisher at BEA.