Balaclava Boy ISBN: 9781908195913
Published by Little Island, 2014
Written first in German, this short, easily-read novel has morphed from Switzerland to South Africa and most recently Dublin as part of their UNESCO City of Literature programme. Set in a class of children with remarkable names and even more remarkable nicknames, it takes us through just a week when children who have been bored and unexcited about school become engaged - and this is through the wonderful Balaclava Boy. When Tommy arrives in Class 4, he is wearing a balaclava helmet, and furthermore, he doesn't take it off, not even at lunch or during break. Why, his classmates ask, and they do everything they can think of to get him to remove it. Particularly Dumisani and Doogal, known as the 'Doo Dudes' or the Big Ds, who tell the story. Nothing works, though, and Tommy remains balaclavad. Even the school bullies, who try to force him down and pull it off are thwarted by Class 4, who have developed a liking for their strange new class mate, as well as the fact that Tommy has turned out to be an ace footballer. Bossy Cherise and everyone else in the class are dying to know what the answer is and invent all sorts of possible problems he might have from sticky-out ears to the fact he's an alien. They are kind, though, and don't want to force Tommy to pull off his helmet. It soon becomes apparent to the Doo Dudes that there is more to their classmates than they have realised, and it is the two of them as well who find out the ultimate truth - which I am not about to tell you! All I will say is that is has to do with Tommy's having had to move homes and school quite a lot of times. The ending is wonderful, funny, and a complete surprise, and the class has come together in ways never experienced before. One hopes they will stay that way. The pencil drawings throughout the book are marvellous and perfect with the often very humorous text. This would be a super choice for newly-confident readers who will greatly enjoy the fun.