Inspiring Young Readers
Owen and the Soldier by Lisa Thompson
Owen’s a bright boy but school at the moment is a bit of a nightmare. He'd be happy just keeping himself to himself but it seems everyone, especially his English teacher, wants him to join in. He's expected to play his part in class readings and to speak out loud in front of everyone but Owen just knows that if he tries to do it things will all go horribly wrong. In fact, everything is horribly wrong in his life since his father’s gone – his mom isn’t coping and he really has no-one to share his inner thoughts with. Except, that is, for the crumbling statue of the soldier that sits on a bench in the park’s memorial garden.
And things are about to get worse. His English teacher has bounced him into writing a poem to celebrate the opening of the new school library – which means he will have to perform in front of all the invited guests. And Owen’s determined that’s just not going to happen. Well, at least he’s determined it won’t until he discovers that the Council has plans to redesign the memorial garden and to get rid of his precious statue.
Owen is outraged but what can he do? He tries writing to the local newspaper and to the Council and although he gets sympathetic responses, it all seems too little too late. But then he discovers that the Councillor in charge of the park refurbishment is exactly the same person who will be attending the opening of the new school library. If he changes his mind and writes a poem after all, could this be Owen’s last chance to change people's minds?
When the poem is read we discover just why the statue means so much to him and what happened to his dad. Will this be a turning point for Owen and his mom? Can the statue be saved from the wrecking ball?
Read it yourself to find out because you’ll find this little story is a real emotional roller-coaster of a book. It deals sensitively with issues of loss, isolation and emotional turmoil and highlights just how important it can be to have someone to talk to in times of stress and upset. Author, Lisa Thompson handles these sensitive issues with great care and finesse and packs a lot into what seems like a relatively small package. The publisher, Barrington Stoke, have guided the book as ‘super readable’ for an 8+ age group but I can see this having resonance for much older children too. The illustration is kept to a minimum with a recurring motif at the head of each chapter and I think that’s a good decision given the emotional power of the text.