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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
by Hans Peterson
Age Range: 9-11
When Pelle Jansson's family move to the city of Gothenburg from the countryside in the Jämtland district of Northern Sweden he has many adjustments to make, both at school and at home. His Dad has got a new job at the Volvo car factory and his mum at the Tempo department store. When Pelle attends his new school he finds that both the teacher and the class cannot understand him when he speaks because of his strong accent. Everyone laughs when he read aloud and the children mock him.
Pelle feels unwelcome. He is sad and lonely. But then he meets an older boy who takes on the task of protecting him. Janne smokes and commits petty crimes and soon Pelle finds himself tangled up in a very awkward and dangerous situation. To make matters worse, his mum and dad are having constant rows at home due to the pressures of adapting to city life and their new jobs so they have little time for Pelle. Sometimes they are even physically abusive towards him. But things are not all bad; Pelle has found a new friend Anna at school to whom he can confide in.
This is a powerful novel that tackles serious and important themes: adapting to a new environment; the perception of being an ‘outsider’; peer pressure and bullying as well as abuse. Swedish author Hans Peterson has a remarkable way in which he makes the reader empathise with Pelle especially over his fear of being punished by his family which is especially moving.
Palle Bregnhøi’s original illustrations, although charming, are perhaps not entirely suitable for the severity of themes tackled in this story. The artwork gives the impression that the book is suitable for a much younger audience, which obviously is not the case here.