My Particularly Peculiar Week with Tess
A beautifully fresh island adventure about a girl who enlists a boy to help her connect with her father, who doesn’t even know she exists.
How is it possible that Anna Woltz has not yet won any major children’s book awards? Perhaps it’s because she writes small adventures that are deceptively straightforward in their tone. However, the emotional depth that award committees are usually looking for is most definitely present in her work.
What makes Woltz such a good children’s writer is that she understands that children want first and foremost to read an exciting adventure story, but at the same time her characters – and her readers – also learn a great deal about themselves and about life.
In her latest book, psychology is a little more prominent than before. Protagonist Samuel is wrestling with his fear of death and loneliness. At times he seems like a relative of the young thinkers that ALMA winner Guus Kuijer presents in his books, all the more so because Woltz writes in that same accessible, fresh and humorous style.
And fortunately there’s still a heart-warming Woltz adventure in this book: during the May holiday on the Dutch island of Texel, ten-year-old Samuel meets eleven-year-old Tess, a boisterous and rather bossy islander. He quickly becomes involved in a bizarre plan that Tess has concocted so that she can get to know her father, who has no idea that she exists. Tess has found his name in one of her mum’s old scrapbooks, tracked him down on the internet and invited him to stay for free in their holiday home – without telling him that she’s his daughter and most definitely without letting her mum in on the plan. She intends to test him for a week to see if she really wants to have him as a dad, but of course all kinds of things go wrong.
While Tess longs for a relationship with her father, Samuel is doing his best to become less attached to his family. He practises being alone, a little more every day, so that he can get used to loneliness, just in case his family dies. But then an old man confides in him about how much he misses his dead wife: “When my Maria died, I cried because I hadn’t seen her more often. I would have liked more Maria. Not less.”
Woltz delights her readers with such beautiful insights, skilfully weaving together all of the threads of the plot to craft a very moving conclusion.