Tuesday, 1 February 2011
Review: Grace by Morris Gleitzman
Released: February 3rd, 2011
Grade rating: A
In the beginning there was me and Mum and Dad and the twins. And talk about happy families, we were bountiful. But it came to pass that I started doing sins. And lo, that's when all our problems began...
If you haven't yet read one of Morris Gleitzman's fantastic books, where have you been?! He's the author of Once, Then and Now, a series set in WWII that I consider modern children's classics and must-reads for everyone. He writes these incredibly thought-provoking, heartbreaking books, but he still doesn't seem to be getting the huge recognition he deserves. I want this to change and I hope Grace, his latest UK release, will reach a wider audience.
Grace is a short book at only 181 pages, but it tells the powerful story of a young girl living a stifling life of religious rules and regulations. Her family belongs to what is described as a 'special' Catholic Church, where women must have long hair and stay at home, non-members are not to be touched or socialised with, and they employ the belief that only members of their church will go to heaven. I haven't read many books about religion, as it's not something I feel particularly strongly about. The beauty of Morris Gleitzman's story is that it doesn't try to force the reader to think about their own religion or preach the importance of faith, which I appreciated. As always, his writing seems almost effortless, and the simplicity of his sentences proves once again that he is a worthy author for this age group.
Grace is a gem of a character, one that only comes along every now and then. She's compassionate to everyone and everything, even though most of the people around her, including church elders, are the exact opposite. She's forward thinking and inquisitive which, in her situation, causes nothing but trouble. Her parents have raised her to ask questions and learn, and to always treat others with respect. Time and time again she goes against her church's beliefs, and shows her inspiring strength of character. Even when faced with outsiders, she treats them as she'd treat anyone else - as if they're normal people deserving of everyday courtesy.
This book reminded me of Carol Lynch Williams' The Chosen One, which deals with similar themes and issues in the same precise way as Grace. They both share brave female protagonists fighting to break out of their suffocating chains, and both books left me feeling grateful for my freedom and choice. If you read and enjoyed The Chosen One, or even if you didn't, you really should give Grace a chance. It's so much more than it appears to be, and is really the story of one determined girl's struggle and sacrifice to save her family.
In a word: brilliant.