Essential Modern Classics
Pages: 288 pages
Finished: June 15, 2010
First Published: 2002 (2010 EMC edition)
Publisher: Harper Collins UK
Genre: children, realistic fiction
It all began when Catherine came to talk about the Elders' Project.
Acquired: Received a review copy from Harper Collins Canada.
Reason for Reading: I was immediately drawn to the story involving a derelict house and a mystery surrounding it. Then I noted the book had been published under the Essential Modern Classics list. This is a list of books chosen by the publisher's UK house and is a collection of outstanding books for children. From looking at the titles I'd say the age range varies anywhere from 8 to 15. Four new titles are to be published in 2010 under the Essential Modern Classics list and I think the authors chosen present a unique collection for North American readers to discover. I intend to be keeping up-to-date with ESM as well as digging into their backlist.
This is one of those rare and truly exceptional stories. A book that captures the heart and will live on in memory for ages. The story defies an age group, while not suitable for youngest children, it can be read and enjoyed by juveniles and adults with equal pleasure. There are both a young 13-year-old and a senior citizen character for readers to possibly choose one over the other to identify with, though the book is told from the 13-year old's point of view.
As part of the Essential Modern Classics series the book starts with an informative paragraph bio. of the author followed by a short essay entitled "Why You'll Love This Book" written by a famous author, in this case David Almond. This publisher's series also sometimes end with extra material at the back of the book, but this one does not.
Robert is the kid who gets picked last for sport teams, is teased relentlessly by the class smart alek and therefore everyone else, and has been nick-named Norbert by the other kids ever since he can remember. Robert joins the Elders' Project which involves working at the local senior's home and partnering with an Elder to create a visual that will sum up the group's experience of what they have learned about each other. Robert is more than surprised when a strange old lady suddenly calls out she doesn't want her partner, she wants him ... and is pointing directly at Robert. Thus begins a life and death relationship that will change who Robert is forever.
Robert is directed to a creepy old derelict house where rumour has it a boy about his age once jumped to his death from the top floor apartment thinking he could fly. Robert must race against time to figure out the mystery of the house and learn himself how to truly fly.
Heart-warming, funny, with characters who make you like or hate them, this is a beautifully written book. It is a coming of age story for Robert as he has a truly remarkable experience. It is a coming to terms with life story for the old lady, Mrs. Sorrel, as she finds a way to settle the anguish and self-punishment she has put herself through for the past forty years. Out of all this come life for one and death for the other, both good and wonderful things. This is an exceptional story which I am delighted to have read.