A Grandfather's wisdom

nowTITLE = NOW

AUTHOR = MORRIS GLEITZMAN

GENRE = BULLYING, RELATIONSHIPS, HOLOCAUST  (Bushfires, Grandparents)

INTEREST LEVEL = YEAR 7

Whilst this is a fitting conclusion to the trilogy, the novel may seem a little twee at times; perhaps it is more appropriate for a primary school audience rather than a secondary school. Gleitzman touches on some pertinent issues: bullying, cyberbullying and surviving an extreme bushfire but Zelda seems to overcome these hardships in fairly conventional (stereotypical) ways (eg the bully needing to be saved).

Grandfather Felix seems almost too kindhearted to be true and for a seemingly bright child Zelda seems somewhat lacking in common sense at times (running away to join the firefighters because she believed she had started the fire, for instance).

However, Gleitzman has clearly tried to show the impact of past experiences on current events and the moral of his story is eminently just.

This novel has also been longlisted for the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize 2010

Recommended for younger readers (dma) ***

A triumph of the human spirit

the absolutely true storyTITLE = THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN
AUTHOR = SHERMAN ALEXIE
ART = Ellen Forman
GENRE = IDENTITY, GROWING UP
INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 8 – 10

Arnold Spirit is well named because he is a bright boy with amazing resilience. Despite facing physical handicaps (as a result of his birth), despite being a regular target of bullies, despite the drawbacks of growing up on an Indian reservation (where drunkenness thrives and ambition seems to die) Arnold is determined to face life head on; even if this means leaving his comfort zone and his best friend to attend a white school 20 km from home.

At the heart of this story is how a young teenager learns to cope with being different; how he develops a hard core of inner strength to help him cope with the loss of friends and beloved family members. How he learns to make new friends and how he (and those around him) begin to develop a measure of tolerance and understanding.

Arnold is often a humorous narrator. Combined with the sketches he scatters throughout the book, this makes the story quite accessible even for students who may not be keen readers. Whilst the story may focus on a Native American Indian, it should nevertheless resonate with Australian students. It has also won several, well deserved awards.

Highly Recommended (dma)  *****