Review Blog

Oct 18 2012

Other brother by Simon French

cover image

Walker Books, 2012. ISBN 978 1 971720 83 3
(Ages 11+) Highly recommended. Family. Seeing a new book by Simon French is enough to give me goosebumps as I recall with gratitude his earlier stories, Change the locks and Cannily cannily, which gave a sympathetic voice to those children rarely seen in children's book, the itinerant and neglected. In many books these children are presented as stereotypes, rarely are they seen as characters in their own right. The other brother, Bon, in this superb book, is a neglected child of a mentally unstable woman, who leaves him with her mother and sister in a small country town, where everyone knows each other's business.
The story revolves around the boy fitting in to his new family, especially his cousin, who rejects him out of hand, wanting to keep cool with his friends at school, and dismissing Bon's oddities as weird. His parents and sister, as well as his grandmother, are very sympathetic and supportive of Bon, and the reader feels from the start, that the adults know more than they are telling the children.
The school yard is most effectively shown, with its gangs of kids, places where some feel safer than others, kids looking to hurt, manipulate and undermine, while others show compassion and support. Bon and Kieran move around each other for a while, until the bullying by Kieran's friends puts him in a position where he must do the same to keep his friends. He is instantly sorry and his attempts to apologise to Bon see him following the boy into the night when he attempts to run away.
This is the sort of story all kids will read and discuss. It is the tale of an outsider, a neglected child who has looked after himself for many years, skirting around his mother's moods, then thrust into a family where even to sit down together is a different experience.
It is the story of being rejected, of fitting in, of changing attitudes, of things kept beneath the surface. But overall it is the story of a family, responding to the needs of another member, helping the child adapt to a calmer environment and helping their own son accept the new boy for what he is. The parents are marvellously drawn, so much so that several times, I reread passages to see how French had made me so involved in their lives. The minor characters too all have a face and background, each is individual, while the background of Bon's friend Julia is slowly revealed to the reader and we learn about it along with Kieran.
Fran Knight

Archived Blog Entries
Latest News
CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals 2018
National Book Award winners 2017
Speech Pathology Book of the Year Awards 2017
YABBA Awards 2017
Teens' top 10
2017 Man Booker Prize
Australian Family Therapists' Award for Children's Literature 2017 winners
2017 Children's Peace Literature Award Short List
Inkys Awards 2017
2017 Miles Franklin Literary Award
2017 NSW Premier's History Awards
The Queensland Literary Awards 2017

ReadPlus Features
Print similar authors bookmark
Read similar authors
How to find lesson plans
Sample theme animation

Promote Reading
Staff holiday reading list 2017
South Australian Christian Schools Conference 2016 - Library Displays
Display calendars
Value of School Libraries
Library, Reading development and the Internet
Free Rights of the Reader Poster
Reviews: Author index
Bookmark and poster templates