Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Desmond and the Very Mean Word by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Douglas Carlton Abrams and A.G Ford (Candlewick Press)


Desmond and the Very Mean Word

Written by Archbishop Desmond Tutu & DC Abrams

Illustrated by A.G Ford

Published by Candlewick Press

This book caught our eye for a whole stack of reasons. It's not every day you spot a children's book that's written by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, that deals with issues of apartheid in a way that children can understand, and that wraps the whole package up in a moral tale that really draws the reader in - with superb artwork to boot.

"Desmond and the Very Mean Word" has all these qualities, and it's a fantastic story of how a young boy, Desmond, encounters a horrid gang of boys while out showing off his new bike. The boys use a very mean word on Desmond, and he flees the scene. All day long his anger, and the word, boil up inside him until he decides the only thing that will help is revenge.

Seeking the kindly advice of Father Trevor, the Neighbourhood priest, Desmond learns the value of forgiveness and compassion.

Sometimes when I read to Charlotte I can almost hear her holding her breath with anticipation of how a story will end, how the central character will overcome their difficulties, and how books will deliver their message and that was very much the case here. Desmond's story may seem fairly unremarkable but put into context, and with a little gentle discussion about apartheid and what life must've been like when Bishop Tutu was a boy, it's a book that held both of us in its thrall. Important stuff, showing that you don't often need a moral sledgehammer to deliver a message that children will understand, but a timely and valuable story dealing with issues sensitively and in language that children can readily absorb will work wonders and stay in the mind for quite some time.

Charlotte's best bit: Desmond, the mean boy and the sweetie stall

Daddy's Favourite bit: An amazing book that easily impresses, delivering a message of forgiveness and compassion with sensitivity and a plain uncomplicated voice

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