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Sunday, February 11, 2018

Roll Of Drums... The New Children’s Laureate Is...

 ...Morris Gleitzman!

A wonderful choice! I have been reading his beautiful, gentle books for a long time. They range from funny to deeply sad, sometimes both at once. He creates characters we readers can care about. My favourite, of course, is Felix from the Once series, but there are plenty more. I have yet to encounter a Gleitzman hero or heroine I didn’t find worth loving. Which makes it sadder when a character dies. When they do, though, it happens for a reason. He doesn’t just say, “I think I’ll kill someone off to make it more exciting.”

Last year, I took some students to the Melbourne Writers’ Festival to hear him speak. It was a delightful morning and several of them bought copies of his books to get signed. One young man hadn’t read his work, but was intrigued enough to start reading Once the next day in his literacy class - and became a fan.

And, see, this is the thing - I’ve known kids ranging from reluctant readers to passionate ones to love his work. In recent years, at my library, the Once series has been the most borrowed, but I remember a very reluctant reader who loved Boy Overboard, Gleitzman’s tale of a refugee boy and his family on their way to Australia by boat. I give kids who love that one the sequel, Girl Underground, in which a girl doing a school assignment works to help the hero of Boy Overboard escape from a detention centre.

We used to have Two Weeks With The Queen as a Year 7 text. A boy sent to England to stay with relatives because his little brother is dying tries to get the Queen’s doctor, who must be the world’s best, to come home to Australia for his brother. While he is there, he helps a gay couple, one of whom is dying of AIDS, to spend time together, with a “borrowed” wheelchair. (That one made a rather nice play which I saw at Melbourne’s Midsumma Festival with a gay friend.)

Anyway, I’m thrilled to hear of this choice and I wish Mr Gleitzman a terrific two years in his job. 

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