November 19, 2014

Missing in action

Against the Odds
by Marjolijn Hof

Kiki's father likes to go to far and dangerous places. He's a doctor who treats people injured in war zones. Kiki would prefer that he stay home, but her mother assures her that the odds of his being killed are small. She points out that Kiki only knows of one child who does not have a father. But Kiki's anxiety only increases. She decides to lessen the odds. Her reasoning goes something like this:

I knew three children with a dead cat. And two children with a dead dog. And one child with a dead mouse. 

I looked at Mona [her dog]. I did not know anyone with a dead dog and a dead father. A dead dog and a dead father! That almost never happened. My mother would say that it was against the odds. And it would be even more against the odds for someone to have a dead mouse, a dead dog and a dead father.

So Kiki gets a pet mouse. When it doesn't die, she gets another mouse that will die. That way, she's increased her odds that her father will be okay. However, when her father really does go missing, Kiki thoughts start turning in a startling new way.

Originally written in Dutch, this English version is translated into simple prose that children can easily relate to. The descriptions of a family going through an extremely stressful situation is believable and honest, and Kiki's feelings of fear and anger are real and sensitively portrayed.

A very thoughtful book.

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