Ewa Jozefkowicz is a huge talent. 'Girl 38', like her wonderful debut 'The Mystery of the Colour Thief', is full of tenderness, heart and truth. With its layered narrative, and messages about friendship and courage, this is a book to be shared and talked about in all the right ways.
Kat keeps being drawn into situations by her friend Gem that make her feel uncomfortable. When a new boy, Julius, arrives at her school the scheming and bullying only gets worse. Kat knows she needs to change but she doesn't have the same fearlessness as her invented comic book character Girl 38. But then Kat is drawn into her neighbour Ania's real-life story from World War Two, and slowly she begins to learn what being a true friend is all about.
After having read lots of fantasy recently, it has been so refreshing to read something that rings with truth and heart in the real world. This a story within a story, or specifically two stories - and it works brilliantly. In the present day, Kat worries about how she should react to on-going bullying, and whether her friend Gem is actually a true friend. In an imagined future, Kat's invented character Girl 38 must find a way to communicate with the strange alien Vilks. And in the past Ania, Kat's elderly neighbour, is trying to save her friend during World War Two. Past, present and 'future' are interwoven so well; each layer exploring the limits of friendship, and how people have to find courage to accept difficulties and differences along the way.
Jozefkowicz writes with the lightest of touches, deftly managing these themes with a simplicity of prose that simply shines with honesty and wisdom. I can't help compare her writing to Louis Sachar. As with his him, I'd easily share this book with my future classes as there is so much to discuss and learn from. Plus, Jozefkowicz just completely gets the life of a child in school with all its pains, hopes and humour. Superb!
If you want a book to teach children about the value of friendship then look no further than 'Girl 38'.
Thank you to Zephyr for my copy to review.