Yesterday, I took my Year 7 English class to the school library. I had asked the library if they would do a book promo with them (especially since World Book Day is coming up) as some of the class were getting a bit disillusioned with reading. I'm lucky enough to work in a school with a fantastically stocked library and really knowledgeable librarians. They showcased about 20 different books, and I wanted to read all of them myself!
The one that struck me to pick up, however, was this one - The Weight of Water, by Sarah Crossan. All it took was a few words from the librarian to convince me that this was a book I needed to read.
Kasienka is a twelve (nearly thirteen) year old from Poland. One day, her father disappears, leaving a note that simply says he has gone to England. He does not say for what, nor when - or even if - he will return. Not accepting this, Kasienka's mother drags Kasienka along with her to England, and they end up in Coventry.
Told in a series of short poems, Crossan gives great insight on what it must be like to be a young girl in a foreign country, particularly when the people of that country are not particularly disposed to like you. They see you as an invader, someone to sweep the rug out from under their feet.
Some of the problems that Kasienka has to deal with are being placed in a class in which she is older than everyone, simply because she cannot yet read English fluently; the rise and fall of being under the notice of the popular girl; being herself when it comes to sports - should she allow herself to be noticed or not? - and romance.
Home life is not much better. Dragged out every night to search the streets for her Tata (father), the only kindness that she and her mother seem to receive is from a neighbour called Kanoro. When Kasienka finally does find her father, it's not the happy ending she expects.
Apart from being a refreshing way to tell a story, the poetic narrative represents Kasienka's struggle to assimilate into the new culture, language and all. It stutters along, like Kasienka is stuttering her way through her new life, a life she didn't ask for. Each poem is a maximum of a page long, yet no more words are needed to tell us about that particular part of Kasienka's ongoing challenges. It makes it more poignant and hard-hitting.
This book implores us to be a kinder. Even if that were the only message, that would be enough.