Review Blog

May 01 2009

Torn pages by Sally Grindley

cover image

Allen and Unwin, 2009.
(Ages 12+) The impact of AIDS in Africa is told to readers using a small family left alone by the distress of the deaths of their parents. Lydia, a young girl in her early teens must look after her ill sister, Kesi and brother Joe. One would expect other family members to come to the fore and help the youngsters, but their only relative, their father's mother, proves to be a disturbing and undermining grandmother. She cannot accept her son's death and so blames the mother, leaving the children bereft of any support.
In describing the family's plight, Grindley reveals the force of this disease on the community. Lydia and her siblings can no longer attend school, so their future is made even grimmer. Their isolation by some members of the community, reinforced by the suspicion that Kesi has AIDS, and the fear of catching the disease, is underlined by Kesi's separation from other students at school. It is the daily existence that Grindley explains so well: the family's attempts to grow vegetables, Lydia's attempts to repair their clothes, the kindness of others in the village, the daily struggle to attend school and Lydia's nervousness at the offers of help from a local man. Lydia's continual support comes from the diary left by her mother, encouraging the young girl in her efforts to be optimistic and aware of her parents' love. Quotes from this diary form a neat parallel to their day to day existence.
Reading this novel will engender plenty of discussions about AIDS and its progress through a community, and students will be able to compare this book with others written on the same theme, Chanda's secret (Allan Stratton) The Heaven Shop (Deborah Ellis) and Two Weeks with the Queen (Morris Gleitzman) .
Fran Knight

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