Wednesday, January 23, 2013

On the run by Clara Bourreau, translated by Y. Maudet

I wavered on buying this - the reviews didn't sound very enthusiastic and it's translated from a French novel. European fiction is often a bit too morally ambiguous and depressing for my little midwestern town. I finally decided to purchase it because it was short and about a kid whose dad was in prison. I glanced at it when it came in, but didn't have time to read it. When I later received a review copy, I did sit down and read the whole thing and now I rather wish I hadn't bought it.

Anthony hasn't seen his dad in years because he's traveling - he's a wildlife photographer. At least, that's what he always thought. But he's getting older and has started realizing there are family secrets. He sneaks into his older sister's room and reads her letters from Dad, discovering the truth; his dad is a bank robber and he's in jail. Anthony has vague ideas about building a relationship with his dad, especially when he escapes from prison, but reality sets in and nothing is the way he had expected. In the end, he helps his dad escape the police and the story ends on a morally ambiguous note, as Anthony promises himself he'll always be there for his dad.

This story could be a starting point for a lot of discussions about crime, its effect on families, loyalty to a parent, and what it's like to have a parent in jail. But there were a lot of oddities in the characters that will make this a difficult read for the average kid in my town. Anthony is supposed to be in third grade. He still sleeps with a night light (when he's not sneaking into bed with his sister for comfort) and his family kept his dad a secret because he's so young. However, while he's hiding out with his dad he meets a girl, the daughter of one of the policemen chasing his dad, and she decides to make him her boyfriend and there is kissing implied. I don't know a lot of nine year old boys who would want to kiss a girl. There are lots of little jarring notes like that throughout the book, as well as the ethical issues.

Verdict: Some foreign books translate well, both text and culture wise, some don't. This one, in my opinion, doesn't. Some kids will probably read it and get something out of it, but I can't see any of my kids with parents in prison being at all interested in this. If you're looking for realistic fiction about kids with parents in jail, this isn't it.

ISBN: 9780385742764; Published 2012 by Delacorte Press/Random House; Review copy provided by the publisher; Purchased for my library

No comments: