Review Blog

Oct 08 2009

Grace by Morris Gleitzman

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Viking, 2009. ISBN 9780670073900.
(Ages 10+) Highly recommended. When young Grace hands in her project on her family, using Biblical terminology and rather cleverly making it sound like chapters from the Bible, her grandfather, an elder in their church takes action. Within her church school she is isolated and questioned, and finally comes to understand that she is to be expelled. Expulsion means being separated from her family. She is devastated, and asks for forgiveness, promising to be a more compliant and better person who will confirm more closely to the church's teaching, but she is still unsure of what she has done wrong.
In this remarkable story, Gleitzman shows us how Grace perceives the events around her. She is totally powerless. Her cult religion allows no dissent, women stay at home, never cutting their hair, showing obedience to their husbands and other male members of the group. Most live within a closed community, sending the children to their school, shunning anyone not within their community as outsiders.
When Grace finds it is her father who is expelled in a most cruel way, she takes action. Enlisting the help of a tow truck driver, she ensures that he knows where she is, and when her grandfather, drugs her mother and kidnaps the children, she phones her father, allowing them to find out where they are.
It is a story of children alienated from their families, a story of a religious group that takes the Bible literally and sees themselves as the chosen few, a story of a little girl, bewildered and frightened, but above all, wanting her family to be together. And Gleitzman, astonishing writer that he is, cloaks it all in the naive Biblical language that Grace has been brought up with, underscoring the group's isolation from the norm as well as her youth in believing all she is told.
If I had qualms about Grace or her father not calling the police, or still having to hide from the cult after they escape, then these are over ridden by the story of a child wanting her family together and at peace, with which every reader will be sympathetic. This novel will engender many conversations and debates within classrooms and amongst children who read it.
Fran Knight

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