Monday 8 July 2024

Grace the Amazing

Grace the Amazing by Aleesah Darlison (Wombat Books) PB RRP $14.99 ISBN: 9781761111174

Reviewed by Kellie Nissen

“I know some people don’t believe in magic, but I do.”

Eleven-year-old Grace Marshall loves magic, animals and her art teacher, Pamela. On the flip side, she also has an annoying brother, a few anger issues and no friends her age – but, she reasons, she does have Pamela and that’s all she needs.

Grace’s day starts badly when she wakes up thinking it’s Sunday, only to discover it’s Monday – and a school day. The only good thing about this is that Pamela is due back from her holidays … and Grace’s class have art today! Except, when they all show up at Pamela’s art room door, there is no Pamela.

Then, Grace overhears some teachers talking in the staffroom. Pamela is dying.

Grace’s world falls apart and her only thought is that she must make Pamela well again.

In Grace the Amazing, author Aleesah Darlison explores a topic that is rarely discussed, let alone written about – the bond that many children develop with their teachers, and how these children are often left out of the loop if the unthinkable happens to their teacher.

In navigating her emotions as she comes to terms with what her future is going to look like – without Pamela – Grace also has to learn more about herself. When you’ve been hurt before, and now live behind a protective shield, this is a difficult task. Even with her mother’s encouragement, her father’s support and the enthusiasm of ‘new boy on the street’, Fromelles, Grace isn’t sure her life will improve – or that she wants it to.

Aleesah Darlison has approached the special relationship between teacher and student, and the concept of how we all deal with trauma and death differently, with sensitivity, raw honesty and a touch of humour. In doing so, she does justice to both topics and has crafted a beautiful coming-of-age story that many will relate to.

I loved this story, partly because I could see myself in Grace – the resilient loner who gets along better with adults than her peers. But, as an ex-teacher, I could also see myself in Pamela with the bond she forged with her students and her willingness to be open and honest with them – treating them as the intelligent, sensitive humans they are. More than my connection, however, I admired the fact that Aleesah has given a voice to the normally voiceless children around the subject of dying, death and grief is an important step in children’s literature – a genre that often shies away from the ‘hard topics’.

Grace the Amazing is targeted at a readership of 8 and older but should also be read by adults – parents and teachers – as a way of opening discussion around the key themes and their implications in today’s world.  

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