My Especially Weird Week with Tess
Translated by David Colmer
Rock the Boat, 2023
176pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99
Sam is a deep thinker – his older brother, Jasper, calls hum ‘the professor’ – and since attending the funeral of a schoolfriend’s father recently, many of his thoughts have been centred around death, particularly its impact on those left behind. And it is his questions about the loneliness of the last dinosaur that leads to a chance meeting with 12-year-old Tess who seems to be on his wavelength and turns a run-of-the-mill holiday on the Dutch island of Texel into a life-changing time for both of them.
Within minutes of the meeting he finds himself learning to waltz in a carpark, offering to bury an old man’s canary and then discovering that Tess, who has never known her father, has found out who he is and has hatched an audacious plan to bring him to the island so she can observe him and decide whether she will disclose her identity. Through the filter-free conversations that kids have when life is still about them and theirs and not impinged by what others might think, they share their thoughts and do things that help them work through Sam’s fear of the loneliness caused by death and Tess’s relationship with her father that is completely credible for any reader who is the same age or who knows how that age group thinks and works. The setting, the situation and the characters are authentic and I binge read it in one session!
Made into an award-winning Dutch film titled My Extraordinary Summer with Tess ,translated into 13 languages and awarded The Times Children’s Book of the Week in March 2023, this is a heart-warming story of friendship and compassion for independent readers, even a class read-aloud, that will envelop the reader like a warm hug. Loved it in the same way as I loved The Girl who brought Mischief.