Friday 5 July 2024

Grace the Amazing

Grace the Amazing by Aleesah Darlison (Wombat Books) PB RRP US $12.99 ISBN 9781761111174

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

It’s not unusual for a child to be in awe of – or even love -- a special teacher. In my case, it was my adored fifth grade teacher, Miss Arthur. However, it’s not usual for a child to have that teacher as their ‘best friend.’ This is how eleven-year-old Grace considers her art teacher whom she calls Pamela. Grace has no other friends – although -- in this middle-grade novel, she eventually forms tentative friendships with other children. For most of the story, however, she has anger issues and insecurities, so much so that her loving mother, with the best of intentions, has Grace attending sessions with a child psychologist.

Pamela has encouraged Grace as an imaginative artist from an early age. And so, it puzzles Grace when she doesn’t turn up at Grace’s school to continue her art lessons. Sadly, Grace overhears two teachers discussing the fact that Pamela has cancer, and not for the first time. This sends the poor child into over-drive. She simply must visit Pamela and see for herself how ill she is. This she does, only to be confronted with the idea that she might have to say goodbye to her adored teacher forever. Meanwhile, she is convinced that she can use magic to make her teacher well, even buying a book and conjuring up tricks.

This is a book filled with emotions. Grace handles her anger with her younger brother, her classmates and occasionally her mother, and too her sadness and sorrow with Pamela’s illness. Happily, her life is not all doom and gloom. There’s happiness when Dad, a fly-in fly-out work returns home. And there are special cuddles from time to time with Mum. And, too, there’s happiness to be found in the animals which are part of Mum’s work as a zookeeper and private animal party organiser.

I found myself quickly reading this engaging novel anxious to know if Grace’s teacher eventually dies (as did my teacher). Pamela’s death seems inevitable, but all I can reveal is that there are moments of great sadness -- as well as relief when the boy next door, and a girl from school become special in Grace’s life.

This is an action and emotion-packed book which is sure to be a favourite for any young reader, especially if they have a special relationship with a teacher.

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