Morris Gleitzman grew up in England and came to Australia when he was sixteen. After university he worked for 10 years as a screenwriter. Then he had a wonderful experience. He wrote a novel for young people. Now, after 36 books, he's one of Australia's most popular children's authors. His books explore serious and sometimes confronting subjects in humorous and unexpected ways. They are published in more than twenty countries.
Gr 4-6‘Rowena Batts has an inborn disability that renders her incapable of speaking. She lives with her good-natured father, a loud, flamboyant, country-and-western fan known as the most successful apple farmer in Australia. She was formerly enrolled in a special school where she grew adept at sign language, but now the girl and her father have moved to a new town, and she attends public school. There, her muteness and her comical surname make her an easy target for the class bully, Darryn Peck. She is delighted when Amanda Cosgrove makes overtures of friendship, until Amanda divulges that she is trying to fulfill a community service project to help the ``disadvantaged.'' Never losing her sense of humor, Rowena recovers to take on her own service project when her outrageously dressed father behaves embarrassingly in front of her teacher. Amanda proves to be an ally after all as Rowena concocts a plan to reform her father by hiring Darryn's brother to fly his plane above the PTA barbecue and skywrite a cautionary message: ``Pull your head in, Dad.'' She makes her point that her Dad is sometimes more of an affliction than her muteness. Gleitzman has created a plucky heroine, and readers will enjoy this light, first-person, humorous tale with an Australian tang.‘Susan W. Hunter, Riverside Middle School, Springfield, VT
Two ebullient novels from Australia showcase an unusually engaging heroine who has an equally unusual condition: Rowena Batts, the new girl in school, can't speak. As she explains in a letter to her new classmates at the start of Blabber Mouth, ``I was born with some bits missing from my throat. Apart from that, I'm completely normal.'' Longing for a friendly overture and having been humiliated straight away by the class bully, Rowena expects (correctly) that even greater embarrassment awaits her at the hands of her widowed father, an eccentric with a flair for making a spectacle of himself. In the sequel, Sticky Beak, Rowena's kind teacher, Ms. Dunning, has married Rowena's father and is pregnant. Rowena fears she'll be replaced in their affections by a more perfect sibling. Gleitzman (Two Weeks with the Queen) shows his comedic talent in both stories while also conveying Rowena's occasional, wrenching frustrations. Rowena's circumstances may be very particular, but her brio in surmounting an almost universal set of fears should win a wide audience indeed. Ages 8-12. (May)