Tuesday 8 March 2022

I’ll Keep You Close

I’ll Keep You Close by Jeska Verstegen (Allen & Unwin) RRP PB $16.99 ISBN 9781760526917

Reviewed by Kylie Buckley

I’ll Keep You Close is a novel based on the real-life events of the author. The story is told in the first person by Jeska’s eleven-year-old self. It is set in the Netherlands during the 1980s.

Jeska’s parents were children during the Second World War, but they never speak of it. It’s obvious to young Jeska that her mother avoids the topic. On a visit to the nursing home with her mother, Jeska is mistakenly called ‘Hesje’ by her ill Bomma (Grandma). When they get home, Jeska asks her mother about this name, only to be told it was no concern of hers. The lack of information and secretive nature of the name makes Jeska even more intrigued. While Jeska’s mother continues to shield her from the past (including withdrawing her from a history class), Jeska seeks answers on her own and a tragic family history is revealed.

I’ll Keep You Close is highly recommended for middle-grade readers. It is thought-provoking, educational, and respectfully tackles difficult topics, like war, the Holocaust, and grief. The novel is divided into titled short chapters, which would appeal to many young readers.

Jeska is a talent author-illustrator who currently lives in Amsterdam. Her illustrations have been published in over 100 books. I’ll Keep You Close is her debut novel, which has been translated from Dutch for English-speaking markets.

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