It takes a book like Robin Klein’s The Listmaker to remind adults that a children’s book which succeeds in conveying a child’s point of view may well not immediately engage more mature readers. In this instance, Klein so precisely articulates the self-absorbed voice of twelveyear-old Sarah, the eponymous listmaker, that it takes an effort of will for an adult reader to persist past the first few pages of what seem like overstated emotions and overdetermined plot. Children will have no trouble accepting Sarah’s voice and understanding that it’s like it is because it’s been distorted by her circumstances. Adults too, however, would do well to persevere with The Listmaker, for it turns out to be a heart-felt indictment of how our greedy me-first society can damage children.
Miracles can still happen. Robin Klein and Max Dann, two of the most popular and successful contemporary children’s authors, have combined forces to write a comedy with a boarding school setting which might, just possibly, start a whole new trend in Australian children’s literature.
I think it’s time for Robin Klein to slow down, though my ten-year-old daughter Finley wouldn’t thank me for saying so. She almost shivered with excitement last year as she told me that her teacher was reading a chapter of Hating Alison Ashley to the class each day. ‘I just can’t wait for the next bit,’ she said, ‘but I don’t want it to end.’