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This issue’s cover illustration by Catherine Rayner is from Solomon Crocodile. Catherine Rayner is interviewed on p.14 of this issue. Thanks to Macmillan Children's Books for their help with this May cover.
By clicking here you can view, print or download the fully artworked Digital Edition of BfK 194 May 2012 .
It’s bad enough if you’re a new kid starting school for the first time in fifth grade (aged ten or eleven) and everyone’s already settled in with their friends. You’re going to have a hard time, at least for a while, just getting used to being at school and finding your place in the community. If you are August, it’s even more complicated. The reason he hasn’t been at school before is because he was born with an extremely disfigured face and has endured years of corrective surgery which has still left him with an appearance which causes other people to react, at best, with unease, and, at worst, disgust and hostility. This is the story of how he copes with his first school year, and how his family, his new friends, and his school cope with him. In alternating parts, it’s told by Auggie himself and the two new friends he makes, Charlotte and Jack; and by his sister, Via, her new boyfriend, Justin, and her estranged old best friend, Miranda. It’s a story of shifting friendships, of deciding whether to go with the crowd or to stand alone, and of making discoveries about oneself and others: a story of all those changes that happen throughout our personal lives, but perhaps never more intensely than in childhood and our teenage years. And here they are further intensified by the presence of Auggie, a boy, who, in a society dominated by appearances, above all cannot be judged by his. For most of this book, which is, for the most part, subtle, heart breaking and funny, I was both unsettled and moved. The ending, in which Auggie emerges publicly as well as personally triumphant, getting a special award and a standing ovation at the school prize giving, is a little too upbeat to credit: a vindication of the good sense of a community of kids, teachers and parents which had, for the largest part of the book, been at best divided in their attitude to Auggie. It is curious, too, in a book concerned with the divisive effect of appearances and set in a society still preoccupied with ethnic identity, that this is a school where such differences are so insignificant as not to be mentioned.