Eerdmans Books for Younger Readers

Eerdmans Books for Younger Readers by Joe Lawlor, A Girl Called Problem by Katie Quirk

Eerdmans Books for Younger Readers are great books for children aged 10-14 about the difficult issues that young people face, although these novels are set in more unusual settings. Shida lives a traditional lifestyle in rural Tanzania in the 1960s and Jun Li is a high school student playing amateur detective.

Both books deal with the difficulties in being different and being bullied. Jun is trying to track down a cyber bully to prove that he wasn’t him who posted pictures online that expose another student’s eating disorder. Jun also faces considerable bullying himself. He is a small, brilliant, Asian computer geek with limited social skills, whose best friend is a very tall girl; therefore not your run of the mill seventh grader.

Shida is bullied because she is a girl who has begun to attend school; which was a very radical idea at the time in Tanzania. A Girl Called Problem is based on an actual time period in Tanzanian history, when the President Nyerere encouraged a number of changes, including encouraging girls to get an education.

The books are written from the children’s point of view; so to Shida, her mother seems unkind and unjust, whereas to an older reader, it is obvious that Mama Shida (mother of Shida) is clinically depressed. Jun finds the behaviour of the other children from school mystifying and depends very heavily on his best friend to help navigate through the necessary social protocol.

Both books are well written and interesting. I recommend them both.

Katy Gerner


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