Fostering the joy of reading early

Staying In

New book club for children and young adults starting in Tertulia

Book review
Bríd Conroy

Did such a thing as kids’ book clubs exist in the 1970s or 1980s? If they had, I wish I had known about them. A club is defined as ‘an association dedicated to a particular interest or activity’, but it is so much more than that. It is a place where like-minded people get to share their passions, in this case for books, and to enhance their own interest by seeing stories through the eyes of others.
At Tertulia, we are starting a kids and teens’ monthly book club to facilitate children and young adults in exploring award-winning literature and classics in a fun environment. Now more than ever in this digital age, it is important to foster the joy of books and to promote the contribution that reading books make to sparking imagination, ability to focus, concentrate and communication.
Our first book club choices are ‘Melt’, by Ele Fountain, published by Pushkin Children’s Books, for ages 8-12, and ‘Know My Place’, by Eve Ainsworth, published by Barrington Stoke Teen, for ages 12-15.
‘Melt’ is the story of two children: Yutu, who lives in a remote Arctic village with his grandmother, and Bea, whose father works for an oil exploration company.
Yutu’s house is on the edge of the tundra, a traditional wooden house, balanced on the ice. He has never travelled far from his village compared to Bea’s family, who move regularly from place to place with her father’s work, never settling. Yutu is restless, however, and wants to prove to his grandmother that he can live in the traditional way.
An incident with Bea and her father brings Yutu’s and Bea’s worlds colliding together. It is a page turner from beginning to end. Both children end up on the ice together in a dangerous quest. We begin to understand through the eyes of Yutu and his village, how the warming of the planet is affecting their lives.
There is great wisdom in this book. Throughout, we learn about belonging, climate change, the beauty of nature and the joy of a great story. “The land shapes us, not the other way round, the land, the weather, the animals who share it with us. There is a balance.”
‘Know My Place’ tells the story of a girl called Amy, whose only relative, her grandmother, died when she was six years of age, leaving her in the care of the state. Amy is now a teenager and has left a foster family, where she had lived for three years. She is moving to a new foster family, a new home and a new school.
The book goes beautifully back and forth in time, between before, now and then after. It is short and easy to read, yet concise and thought provoking at every stage. We get a clear sense of what it might mean to be Amy, to have lost everything and to crave love and a family, things so many of us might take for granted.
The issue of bullying is touched upon as is the fear that gives rise to such. We are challenged to assess how we think and treat others and to observe how others treat others too. The story is sad at times but ultimately uplifting and full of hope.
Both books tell great stories and will provide a wonderful platform for discussions at a book club.

Tertulia’s book clubs for children and teens start on Friday, April 19. For more information, see tertuliabookshop.com/childrens-book-club.

Bríd Conroy and her husband Neil Paul run Tertulia – A Bookshop Like No Other at The Quay, Westport.