Tag Archives: Neal Layton

Quest – the Aarhus 39

Quest is the ‘younger’ half of the two Aarhus short story collections, edited by Daniel Hahn. I use quotation marks, because I am less convinced of the age ‘gap’ than has been suggested. Yes, it is a little younger than Odyssey, but I felt many of the characters in Odyssey were not proper YA material; they were children who tried out older behaviour.

It’s not important, as both collections offer a great range of stories from all over Europe. As with Odyssey, the authors are occasionally quite famous, and so are the illustrators, and I’ve come across several of the translators before as well.

Quest - Aarhus 39

Of the 17 short stories in Quest I chose to start in the middle, because I just had to read the one by Maria Turtschaninoff first. I might have a crush on her. The story, The Travel Agency, did not disappoint. In fact, I could want to read a whole book based on it.

It’s unfair to pick favourites, but I did enjoy Maria Parr’s A Trip to Town, about a girl and her grandma. And as for Journey to the Centre of the Dark by David Machado; you’d do well to have a hand to hold. In the end it didn’t go quite as far as I kept being afraid of, but I’d be happy to offer my idea to anyone who feels like writing scary stories.

The Quest stories are not as dark as in Odyssey. Maybe that’s why they are offered as children’s stories. And perhaps that’s why they suited me better. But, in short, I can recommend these two collections as a starting point for fun with unknown [to you] names in children’s literature.

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Joey Pigza

Good thing that Philippa Dickinson made sure I had a copy of Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, by Jack Gantos. I would never have picked the book myself. To be perfectly honest, the title is very off-putting to me and the cover, albeit purple, is awful. Apologies to both Jack Gantos and illustrator Neal Layton. Not even the recommendation on the cover by Jacqueline Wilson would have persuaded me. But Philippa spoke so warmly about it, and she knew that I have an interest in aspie books, so she felt I might want an ADHD story as well.

The tale about hyperactive Joey is rather American in style, and I sometimes wonder if you could even have something similar British based. There is a certain US flavour to the way they deal with ‘different’ children in America, and I can’t see it happening here.

Joey is a sweet natured little boy who could be Horrid Henry’s cousin, except that Henry knows what he’s doing and Joey can’t stop himself from going wild. He means well, though. He comes from a long line of overactive people, and has had no real support from either his Dad or his grandmother. Joey’s Mum has her own problems, but still tries so hard to help her son.

They live on their own, on a limited income, and all this seeing doctors and getting ‘meds’ for Joey can’t be easy. But they both try and try, and so do the school staff, even though Joey is more than a handful. Mornings he can be almost OK, and then he goes haywire halfway through the school day.

It takes a bad accident for Joey to end up seeing Special Ed, who isn’t as bad as he’d feared.

With help Joey gets better, and I wish they’d just leave the story there. But there are more books about Joey, and it goes without saying that he will have to face more adversity.

This novel is twelve years old, and I’m pleased that a publisher wants to push for such an old book, when it’d be easier to mention something recent. I’m glad I read it, and I’d hope that children reading about ADHD will make them understand better what it is. Sufferers can see they aren’t alone and that it can be at least partly controlled, and other children will learn that the ADHD child in their class isn’t bad.