There are books I re-read which I loved as a child, and I love to re-read them because of the nostalgia attached. I get to relive my memories of the book. I also sometimes read books by authors I loved as a child, books which I didn’t read as a child, seeking to rekindle my love for that author in a new book. But more often than not, I find the book not nearly as exciting as I would have found it as a child. It takes a special author who is able to capture the imagination of children and adults alike, and Morris Gleitzman is an author who achieves this feat seamlessly.
Boy Overboard is the story of eleven-year old Jamal and his nine-year old sister, Bibi. They both love soccer and want to be famous soccer players to make their country, Afghanistan, proud. But they are forced to flee when the government discovers the secret school their mother has been running. Together with their parents, Jamal and Bibi escape the country and end up on a boat to Australia.
Gleitzman has the most amazing knack for seeing the world through the eyes of a child, and showing the reader the world through his young protagonists’ eyes. A child reading this book will perceive and trust and accept Jamal’s opinions about the world; an adult reading the book will recognise the gaps and misunderstandings in this boy’s perceptions. On the one hand, an adult reading Jamal’s story will be touched and heartbroken at his extravagant plan that becoming a soccer superstar will make everything okay again, and on the other will find solace in the fact that, for the moment at least, he is sheltered from some of the realities of his situation. That this young child is able to see past hopelessness and hold onto some sort of hope.
Boy Overboard is a moving story about the sacrifice and hardships asylum seekers who attempt to make it to Australia by boat go through, told through the eyes of a child. But at its core, the book is about so much more than that. This is a story of two kids with big dreams and big hearts who, apart from living in and having to escape from a war torn country, are no different to kids anywhere else in the world.
Morris Gleitzman was one of my favourite authors as a child, but I love his writing more and more the older I get.
Puffin Books, Penguin Australia, 2001
June’s book club book is Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. Really looking forward to this one! Happy reading!
Whenever I see or hear the word Grug, a warmth of nostalgia floods through me. I learnt to read on Grug. And once I could read, I kept re-reading the Grug books, because the stories always made me smile. Each time I picked up one of the books to read, I’d read through it once, get to the end, and then flip straight back to the first page to read the story over again.
Grug is a strange little creature. Ted Prior’s beloved character was born when the top of a Burrawang tree fell to the ground. Prior created Grug in 1979, and the books continued to be published until the early 1990s. In 2009 Simon & Schuster reprinted the series, and more Grug stories have been created since then.
I can’t pinpoint exactly why I like Grug so much. Perhaps it is because he looks so different from any other character in any book I’ve read. Or maybe it is because Grug is usually perfectly happy on his own, doing the things he loves. It might even be the fact that no matter what problem Grug faces, he always comes up with a solution and manages to sort things out. Or maybe it is simply because although each story is so short, they are so satisfying to read and the illustrations so full of life.
Whatever the reason, late last year a box set of Grug including a plush Grug toy was released and I’ve been itching to buy it ever since I saw it. I want to place Grug up on my bookshelf along with my Grug books, so that every time I glance at my bookshelf I’m reminded of my first experiences reading, my recollections of these wonderful little stories, and why I still can’t stop devouring books, one after another after another.
Grug, 1979- 1992, Hodder & Stoughton Australia
2009- present, Simon & Schuster