For the first blog entry, since we are now in the short listing stage of the Tower Hamlets Book Award, I thought it worthwhile to consider one of the books, Running on Empty by S.E.Durrant.
This is an understated, every day story of a family told by the eleven year old son whose parents happen to have learning difficulties. Things start to fall apart when the grandfather who keeps a close eye on them all sadly dies and leaves them bereft in more ways than one. AJ has his hands full trying to keep his parents happy and on an even keel. He’s also trying to fulfil his ambition of being the best runner ever despite problems with his (perceived) rival and bullying P.E. teacher. Family relationships are at the forefront, especially the love and care shared with his parents, and his disarmingly sweet younger sister, contrasted with the troubles he has with a rather unsupportive uncle and an aunt, about to have a baby, who hasn’t yet spotted the slippery slope AJ and parents are on. The crisis at home builds, with the very real danger that the family may be forcibly split up if they’re not coping, but problems that seemed insoluble have a calm and pleasing resolution. It’s told in the voice of AJ, chatty, informal, yet displays some real insight into why his behaviour is sometimes less than perfect without being over-explained. It’s a good choice for a class book that looks at a variety of issues, and is still readable and accessible.
Please add your comments below. I’d love to hear what others think of it, and also to hear recommendations of anything similar. I’d suggest The Boy in the Tower by Polly Ho-Yen, Joe All Alone by Joanna Nadin, Smart by Kim Slater.