This book is important. For humanity, for the future, for the preservation of hope and for deepening our understanding, all of us, of what it means to be human. The tale is set in some sort of camp, somewhere at some time. This, for me, is the beauty and pull of this narrative. It could be anywhere at any time happening to anyone. As an educator, this is a gift of an opportunity to explore the intensely challenging and complex themes of othering, being a refugee, being ostracised, being entrapped, not ‘being’.
The plot meanders through the world of the protagonist ‘I’, a boundless optimist to say the least, from the day of his birthday to the moving, dramatic and cathartic climax at the end: the final chapter where we are introduced to the character ‘U’, a possible invitation to the reader to engage further in the world of the narrative. The main characters are referred to as letters that combine to make ‘OLIVE’, with chapters being named after words within this word, a feature that can be explored with a group of readers and meaning makers. This leads to another aspect of the text, which makes it attractive to educators: it opens up many important channels of conversation for young people. The book brings themes such as identity: what is it? Is it necessary? What’s in a name?; family: what constitutes a family?; humanity; love; hope; optimism; control and imprisonment.
If there was a time for this book to occupy a space in every key stage two reading area, it is now. Now more than ever, in my view, young people need the conduit of this amalgamation of true stories to explore and make sense of what it truly means to be human and a part of the human race. Thank you, Steve Tasane.
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These notes may be printed freely for use in classrooms but may not be reproduced in any other format without the permission of the author.