Review Blog

Nov 28 2017

The most important thing: Stories about sons, fathers, and grandfathers by Avi

cover image

Walker Books Australia, 2017. ISBN 9781925381634
(Age: Upper primary - Lower secondary) Highly recommended.
Given the current state of gender politics in children's literature this collection of short stories is a brave publishing adventure. There are seven stories and in all, boys are the central characters. As the title suggests, most of the other characters are male and related to the boy, along with a few mothers within the ambit. The author is male as well. What may surprise readers - especially the gender-auditors - is that these stories are less about action and more about emotions, the clumsy emotions that often mark male relationships. The scope of emotions is wide and some may not realise that boys, too, can feel these ways; that's why girls should read this book too. The author takes care to validate these emotions for young male readers, with authentic resonance in each story - honestly, he was once a boy himself.
The stories present a wide range of scenarios and angles; not all resolve neatly. Some are sombre, others are humorous, many are poignant, a few are frustrating. They are not for lazy readers but will reward those who appreciate positive and negative spaces in their reading; answers that give rise to more questions. There will be no spoilers here. Readers need to see for themselves how they are adroitly knitted together for the thoughtful reader to discover an answer to the not-so-elusive question in the sub-title.
Highly recommended for upper primary and lower secondary readers.
Kerry Neary

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