The Things I Didn't Say, by Kylie Fornasier

I hate the label Selective Mutism – as if I choose not to speak, like a kid who refuses to eat broccoli. I’ve used up every dandelion wish since I was ten wishing for the power to speak whenever I want to. I’m starting to wonder if there are enough dandelions.

Piper Rhodes doesn’t talk to strangers. But far from this being a sign of following parental rules, her silence seems inexplicable. She can talk at home, and to people she knows well, but at school and in the community, words fail her. This causes lots of problems, but as she starts at a new school for her final year of schooling, Piper is never more aware of just how problematic it can be. Teachers think she’s being rude, and making friends is difficult. Then there’s West: the school captain, soccer-star, boy who has it all. He seems intent of getting to know her, even if it means writing notes.

Selective Mutism is a difficult condition to live with and for other people to comprehend. Even the name is problematic, as Piper complains, implying a ‘selection’ or choice being made. The Things I Didn’t Say is a wonderful exploration of the challenges it holds for one teen character, at the same time as being just a great read about friendship, peer pressure, and parental expectation. Piper has changed schools by choice after losing her best friend following a drunken party, and at the new school finds both new friends and new enemies. West, who appears to have it all, also has struggles, particularly with meeting the expectations his parents have of him. Their seemingly unlikely relationship blossoms through notes and text messages, but is threatened by people around them.

An excellent young adult read.

The Things I Didn’t Say, by Kylie Fornasier
Penguin, 2016
ISBN 9780143573630

Teacup, by Rebecca Young & Matt Ottley

TeacupOnce there was a boy who had to leave home…and find another.
In his bag he carried a book, a bottle and a blanket.
In his teacup he carried some earth from where he used to play.

Teacup is the story of a displaced boy who travels in search of a new home. His teacup yields a surprise – a tree that grows as he lives upon the sea. Eventually he finds an island, where he sets up home and waits for company to arrive.

From the first page the stunning images of rolling clouds, roiling seas, massive whales and more draw the eye away from the text which, printed in white, almost disappears into the page – echoing the very understated nature of the narrative. The story is slightly whimsical – with the idea of a tree growing in a teacup, and the absence of any adults or explanation for the boy’s need to find a new home – which enriches rather than diminishing the parallels with the plight of refugees who take to the seas looking for better lives. There is plenty of room to discuss both what is happening in the story and these parallels.

The combination of Rebecca Young’s gentle text with Matt Ottley’s incredible artwork makes for a breathtaking whole.

Teacup, by Rebecca Young and Matt Ottley
Scholastic, 2015
ISBN 9781743623848

Available from good bookstores or online.