Weslandia by Paul Fleischman
|Weslandia by Paul Fleischman|
|Genre: For Sharing|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: A welcome and timely reissue for this fabulous little book about a geeky boy who sets about creating a micronation in his back garden and who achieves not only a self-sufficiency success story but also a way to make friends for the first time in his life. Great for explaining the basis of civilisation and showing a green message in action.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 40||Date: December 2007|
|Publisher: Walker Books Ltd|
Wesley is a geeky kid. He doesn't like pizza. He doesn't like football. He doesn't like Mohican hairstyles. And so, unsurprisingly, most of the other kids don't like Wesley. And so, in true Lord of the Flies tradition, Wesley gets tormented. In fact, the only sport at which Wesley shows any promise is running - to escape his tormentors. With the long summer holiday looming, Wesley's parents are exasperated. If only their son would make more effort to get along with his peers, things wouldn't be so bad, they feel. But Wesley resists all forms of parental persuasion, including pocket money bribery, and instead decides to throw himself into a summer project.
In his back garden, Wesley creates Weslandia, a self-sufficient micronation based on plants growing from seeds blown in by the west wind. Wesley drinks juice from the plant, eats its roots, makes furniture and tools from its outer bark and weaves cloth from the inner fibres of its stalks. He presses the seeds to obtain oil which acts as a sunblock and insect repellent and gives him a nice sideline in cash crops. He even invents a new alphabet and system of time for his new civilisation.
And of course, with all this going on, Wesley's kudos increases exponentially. Suddenly, he's not the most unpopular kid in town, he's the most in demand.
You can't do anything other than love this book. There's so much in it. A young boy draws upon his own resources to win friends without compromising at all. It's heroic! The basis and history of all civilisations is distilled into a picture book of scarce two dozen pages. Wesley passes through agriculture, trade, culture and diplomacy. It's educational! Weslandia is green; local and seasonal, based on sustainability. Even better, Wesley's new civilisation achieves its ends (harmony, market control, influence) by peaceful means. It's ethical!
And not only that, it's delight to read. There isn't much text, so you can read Weslandia to pre-schoolers as a sweet and entertaining story about a little boy's resourcefulness and refusal to compromise in morphing from friendless geek to class favourite. On the other hand, so much worthwhile is distilled into these few words, that you could share the book with eight to ten year olds and use it for discussion. The art is wonderful; vivid, energetic and humorous. The first and last pages even show Wesley's new, eighty-character alphabet - and if readers are patient enough, they can decipher it to reveal a message from the illustrator, Kevin Hawkes, to the author, Paul Fleischman.
Marvellous, marvellous stuff. Certainly one for all school librarians to buy and one that most homes will return to over and over too.
My thanks to the nice people at Walker for sending the book
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