Release date: 4th August 2011
Target audience: 8+
UK Publisher: Puffin Books
Too Small to Fail is set in Australia amid a climate of global financial crisis. That sounds like a heavy read, doesn’t it?! But actually, this book is full of spirit and panache and problems that are much more relatable to children and young people.
Oliver’s parents are investment bankers and they work long hours. Oliver knows they love him dearly but he is lonely. The housekeepers who take care of him are often fired by him mum. She wants a superwoman to be there when she can’t be. There is nothing Oliver would like more in the world than the puddle-eyed dog in the shop window. He goes and watches Barclay every day while the housekeeper is in the supermarket. The day the story begins Oliver’s life changes forever. A familiar looking lady buys Barclay and persuades Oliver that she needs his help to get the dog home. He goes with her for Barclay’s sake and when she threatens to kill his beloved dog if she doesn’t get her money back; Oliver is determined to do whatever it takes to save his furry friend.
Oliver is instantly likeable. He is surrounded by rich luxurious things but he’s neglected in terms of loving contact. He’s parents are just so busy and he doesn’t want to worry them. At school he is friendless and his troubles are compounded by his difficulties understanding maths. From the outset, I was cheering Oliver on and hoping against all the odds that he could save Barclay.
There are so many reasons that this is an excellent book. There is great characterisation but there is also the authenticity of the child’s viewpoint. Reading Too Small to Fail, I was taken aback by Gleiztman’s skill as a writer – he communicated the complicated world of investment banking into language and experiences that are familiar to children. I was impressed to say the least. This book would be an excellent choice for a children’s book group. There are so many potential discussion questions: Does money make us happy? Should we keep the money we earn? Why do we use banks? What does it mean to invest in somebody? Should the wealthy help the poor? How can we tackle poverty?
I also think this book is a really valuable book for children’s emotional literacy. The loneliness that Oliver experiences is a very real and troubling experience for children when their parents are both working. Having the opportunity to read about these feelings and similar experiences, will enable children to express their own worries and help to address them.
Who knew a story about a lonely boy, a loveable dog, a sturdy camel, an angry girl, investment banking, and a global crisis could be so outstanding?! Too Small to Fail is heartfelt and captivating. It’s a special little book and I hold it in the highest regard.
Recommended for fans of:
· Freakthe Mighty by Rodman Philbrick
Source: Borrowed from the School Library.