Review Blog

Nov 26 2019

The thing about Oliver by Deborah Kelly

cover image

Wombat Books, 2019. ISBN: 9781925563818.
(Ages 10-16) Highly recommended. Themes: Autism, Disability, Siblings, Family. This book is dedicated to the 'glass children'. These are the children whose lives are almost invisible because they have a sibling with special needs. In The thing about Oliver, Deborah Kelly has revealed a heart-wrenching story about the difficulties for Tilly as she lives as the 'ignored' capable child because her single-mother's attention must so often be directed to her autistic and non-verbal younger brother, Oliver. From the first page, the struggles are evident. When Tilly's mother decides to relocate to Townsville in order to be near her sister, Tilly suffers the normal change and separation dilemmas. However, Oliver's inability to deal with change of any sort, and his loud reactive tantrums escalate in the new environment. The distress for everyone is palpable in the story, but the distress that Tilly feels goes to another level when Oliver destroys her Aqua journal - the precious and personal recording of all the aquatic things she loves. Her response to this dilemma leads to even more drama, when Oliver goes missing. Her inability to swim becomes a metaphor for the way that circumstances are flooding her life, with no hope of escape. The story does not end with a 'cure' for all the struggles of Tilly's life, but there is some light ahead.
The dramatic story-line is incredibly powerful and the complexities of life with a mute autistic sibling make for an emotional story. This is a story that leaves the reader heart-broken for the young Tilly and her mother, but also for the boy Oliver. Because of the content and the maturity needed to handle the emotional dilemmas, this book could be read by older readers (older than Primary-aged Tilly) even though it is relatively simply written. There were many moments when I was nearly in tears as I felt the pain and distress of the young girl (and her tired and distraught mother), and I am sure that an empathic response would be the result from reading this book.
(Note: Readers who have enjoyed Wonder by R. J. Palacio could read this book as it also addresses a sibling response to disability.)
Carolyn Hull

BUY IT ON booktopia
Archived Blog Entries