Review Blog

Nov 03 2014

The minnow by Diana Sweeney

cover image

Text Publishing, 2014. ISBN 9781922182012.
(Age 14+) Highly recommended. Text Prize for YA and Children's Writing (2013). After a devastating flood which claimed the lives of her parents and sister, Tom has been living with Bill down by the lake. But it is time for her to leave because Bill hasn't been treating her properly. Her grandmother is in a nursing home and so she goes to live with her friend Jonah, who too is a flood survivor.
In her grief Tom talks to fish. There is Oscar, a large carp in the pet shop who is always right. A little catfish called Sarah could be her drowned sister and there is a turtle at the hospital, as well as the Minnow. At first, this beautifully crafted story is confusing, as it is not always clear just who Tom is talking to, but this is part of the wonder of the tale. It is a book that begs to be read before the reader starts looking at reviews or analysis of what happens as working out just what is occurring really adds to the reader's enjoyment.
The gradual unfolding of the story showcases Tom's growth as a resilient young woman. She is surrounded by caring people who help her with her grief. With the aid of James Wu, a teacher, Jonah her friend helps her get back to school, while Jonathan his grandfather is non-judgmental in the assistance and support he offers. Her grandmother gives wonderful advice and Hazel, the nursing home administrator is there for her. Sergeant Griffin is calm but doesn't push her in ways that she can't tolerate. This care from a close knit community is uplifting, although Bill is certainly not a person to be near and the reader is left wondering why Tom was sheltering with him.
The quality of the writing, the strangeness of the story, the poignancy of the grief of the flood's survivors made this an outstanding read for me. The minnow deserved to win the Text Prize and it is a very memorable and unique book. It would lend itself to discussion in a Literature Circle, preferably after everyone had read it. Teacher's notes are available.
Pat Pledger

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