Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Book of Everything - Guus Kuijer

The Book of Everything by Guus Kuijer is a brief yet intensely moving book about a nine year old boy named Thomas whose strictly religious father rules their house with his fists and a wooden spoon (with which he beats Thomas), and who insists that the family live according to the Bible. But Thomas finds an escape route from his misery - he sees incredible things that no one else notices such as the tropical fish which swim in the canal, and the frogs that fill the street and try to climb through the letterbox. Thomas starts to record all his observations in a notebook, which he calls "The Book of Everything". In it he also records his dearest ambition: to be happy. But he is not sure it will ever be possible with his father around. One day, however, Thomas meets his neighbour Mrs Van Amersfoot, a widow whose husband was executed by the Nazis and who is consequently something of a rebellious spirit. She recognises a similar spirit Thomas and encourages him not to be frightened or to believe that he's all alone in his battle for happiness. She plays him Beethoven records and lends him books, including Emil and the Detectives. Thus Thomas discovers that in the fight against his father, his uniqueness, and in particular, the extraordinary power of his imagination, are the biggest weapons he possesses.

You can read the first two chapters of the story on the Arthur Levine website and I'm sure that once you do, you will want to read the rest of it too.

No comments: