Once by Morris Gleitzman/The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne
I read Once and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas in close succession. Both books deal with the Holocaust and both manage to communicate the unimaginable realities of life under Nazi rule to a younger audience. Of the two, I found Once the more convincing and the better book. It manages to remain realistic and plausible whereas the very premise of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is a narrative device which feels a stretch too far (a boy in a concentration camp is supposedly able to move freely about the camp, freely enough to allow him to regularly speak to his German friend, Bruno, on the other side). Nevertheless, both are extraordinarily powerful, moving and important books. Continue reading
As mentioned here, one of my first books after returning to reading was The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd. This is a great read, a page-turner with enough excitement and plot twisting to engage even the most reluctant of readers.
I’m currently reading it with a Year 6 book club – five boys who had to be cajoled and bribed with popcorn before they agreed to give it a go. They love it. It has a reality that they connect with – London landmarks, tower blocks, a swear word or two, imperfect adults and snippets of technology.
What lifts this book above the fray is the subtle treatment of Ted, the main character whose brain has ‘a different operating system’. It is Siobhan Dowd’s description of Ted’s Aspergers which transforms this book from thriller into something more powerful.
It’s not long after the last of the new year fireworks have fizzled and dimmed that thoughts turn to resolutions for the year ahead. January is the month of fresh starts and promises. For me, it’s a familiar list of eating healthily and exercising more (although given recent slothfulness the ‘more’ is superfluous).
Like many of the authors in this new year article, I’ve also made a pledge to read more widely and more often, not least by spending less time on line (he says, while writing a blog post). And, with some reluctance, I’ve set a target to read 40 books in the year ahead – reluctance not because it’s too ambitious, less than a book a week is well within reach, but because a reading challenge has a strange effect on me.
The second post is so much easier. The pressure is off.
Now, truth be told, I should have started this blog about six months ago, maybe even this time last year. That was when my life as a reader began to emerge and re-form after the painful, sleep-deprived, I-can’t-speak-let-alone-read period known as early parenthood.