Tuesday, December 29, 2015
by Kenneth Oppel
illustrated by Jon Klassen
Simon & Schuster, 2015. Fiction. 244 p
Steve is worried about his new baby brother. He was born with congenital defects and is not doing well. Steve has other emotional challenges as well, and deals with a lot of anxiety. One night he has a dream that some creatures--he thinks of them as angels--come to him and promise him that they can "fix" his baby brother. The dream recurs and after a while, Steve realizes that the creatures are actually the wasps who are building a large nest outside his home. The wasps promise just what Steve has been hoping for, but are they as friendly as they seem?
Oppel has created a chilling tale that poses complex moral and ethical questions. Would we, as a society, be willing to trade a potentially disabled children for the chance of having a physically perfect ones? How eager would we be to correct our own physical imperfections, if given the chance, and how would that affect the people we are? By presenting these questions in a fantasy setting, Oppel makes them accessible to astute young readers.
This book has received a great deal of critical acclaim. It is very different from anything else that came out this year and will be interesting to see if it receives any of the major children's literature awards. (244 p)