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Dana, Fully Booked

Saint Death

There was recently an article in the press around the Branford Boase children's book award that books for young people had become very dark. This book is no exception - it is very dark. It is not so much Saint Death as Saint Arturo. His resilience in the face of adversity and determination to keep out of trouble in a situation where this is impossible is saintly and borders on the edge of fantasy. There is no doubt and no escaping where this is going to end.
What I found even more troubling is the almost overweaning appeal to an American readership. Much of this book relies on a knowledge of US domestic and foreign policy along with knowledge of Mexico and Spanish. I have "Un poquito de espanol" but I struggled to translate where required and wondered if readers would make the effort to use Google translate. See page 147 "No temas a donde vayas, que haz de morir donde debes." I could only translate as "No where we go, what of death where ."
There are three books on the shortlist out of the four I have read so far that are set in the US and two have American authors. All of the plots of these books have equivalent issues in the UK which could drive these stories - knife crime in London for The Hate U Give, AIDS for the leper colony in Beyond the Bright Sea, migration and asylum seekers in this book. None of this is beyond UK authors. Diversity stresses the importance of providing role models but this leaves the impression that these issues reside 'over there'.
However, the pages of text outside the story were really strong and important writing. So much so that for the first time in all my years of Shadowing, I passed page 207 to another adult to read.

Posted on: 6th November 2018 at 02:43 pm

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