Original title: Julie mezi slovy
Genre: children´s book
Host, 2013, 2020
Golden Ribbon for Teenage Fiction 2014 (awarded by the Czech Section of IBBY), Teachers’ Prize for Contribution to Children’s Reading 2014
Slovenian (MIŠ, 2016, Diana Pungeršič)
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Ten-year-old Julie doesn’t have things easy. She (like many other children) has recently lived through the divorce of her parents; together with her younger sister she is trying to get used to her father’s new partner and her children. The situation is further complicated by the fact the disintegration of the original family unit is accompanied by a move from Prague, an environment of shopping malls, selective entry schools and other amenities of urban life, to an ordinary village where her fellow pupils at the small school have little idea about anything. Against the background of little Julie’s story the reader is acquainted with a veritable dictionary of terms from the adult world that often and inadvertently penetrate the world of children and may well be a source of worry as well as humour. The child reader encounters interpretations of words including ‘divorce’, ‘sex’ and ‘cyberbullying’ and terms such as ‘disability’, ‘dental hygiene’ and ‘credit card’. Young Julie herself inducts us also into a world of words that are strictly forbidden to children. By playful, gentle means Julie urges the reader to reflect on the meaning and use of words. Julie and Words touches on themes (e.g., divorce of parents, family breakdown, the forming of wider emotional ties to include parents’ new partners and their children) that are frequent in children’s literature but rarely fully grasped. It helps readers to come to terms with one of childhood’s most painful experiences.
Annotation for the second, expanded edition (2020):
After numerous requests from child readers, for this second edition the author has added adventures with a new‑born sibling.
Having lived through their parents’ divorce, Julie and her younger sister Ela must now learn to live with their dad’s new partner and her children. The break‑up of the original family brings with it a move from Prague, to a place distant from shopping centres, selective‑entry schools, nice playgrounds and other conveniences — an ordinary village with a small school. What’s more, Julie’s real mum hasn’t been in touch for ages. But Julie and Ela, together with their nearly‑brothers Jakub and Vítek, determine to make the best of things.
Sometimes the adventures are fun, sometimes they are tinged with sadness. But there is a solution to everything, and all will end well.
Julie and Words / Julie mezi slovy shows us that what may appear to be one of childhood’s most painful losses doesn’t have to be so. As well as being an engaging story, this novel introduces a range of subjects (such as sex, cyberbullying, disability and dental hygiene) that often stray into the world of children, there to prove a source of worry as well as humour. By gentle means, the author encourages the reader to think about the meaning and weight of words we encounter everywhere.
Reader age: 6+
Illustrated by Katarina Gasko
Katarina Gasko graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava, Slovakia. She now lives in Canada. She creates illustrations and designs for children’s books, editorial, advertising and educational material.