BooksforTopics Reading for Pleasure Recommendations
Book Title: ‘Girl 38: Finding a Friend’ (Available here)
Author(s): Ewa Jozefkowicz
Publication Date: March 2019
Most Suitable For: Upper KS2+
As a fan of Ewa Josefkowicz’s debut The Mystery of the Colour Thief published last year (see our review here), I was pleased to hear about the arrival of her new newest story, Girl 38; Finding a Friend. This one shares a number of themes with the first book – friendship, bullying, finding courage to do the right thing and valuing the stories and experiences of other people – but this time weaves in a new thread of World War II history into the mix.
Kat is a young teenager who uses her spare time to create comic strip stories based on her fictional superhero ‘Girl 38’. At school, things become tricky for Kat as she juggles the constant pressure of trying to please her best friend Gem and the arrival of an interesting new boy called Julius, who Gem immediately sees as a threat. Before she knows it, Kat finds herself in the centre of Gem’s plan to humiliate Julius, or ‘Operation Loser Boy’ as she terms it.
Meanwhile, Kat strikes up a friendship with her elderly neighbour, Ania, and begins to learn about Ania’s experiences of growing up in Poland during World War II. Kat listens intently to each instalment of Ania’s story, from the time soldiers forced her to separate from her family and leave her village to the time she hid in a bakery near to where her best friend was being held in a concentration camp. As Ania’s powerful history unfolds, Kat feels challenged to find courage of her own to stand up for what is right and confront Gem’s bullying behaviour.
The three strands of Kat’s story, the Girl 38 plot and Ania’s tale weave together beautifully and mirror each other in a way that demonstrates how valuing the stories and experiences of others can enrich our own lives. There is a strong sense through the book of how empowering both storytelling and the act of taking time to listen to the experiences of others can be. As the storyteller, Ania finds strength to face elements of her history that had previously been too painful and is brought great joy to know that a younger generation gives value to her history enough to want to listen. As the listener, Kat finds the stories fascinating and thought-provoking and begins to see how human experiences in the past can offer important insights and wisdom for the present and future.
With convincingly drawn characters, relatable issues and important values at its heart, this is a thoroughly enjoyable read that would suit readers transitioning from Upper KS2 to Lower KS3.
Many thanks to the publisher for sending us a review copy of this book.