Children’s Books: The Gnome’s Eye by Anna Kerz

A cover does not the book make. Still: for The Gnome’s Eye (Orca Books), it was certainly the cover design that caught mine. And no complaints, either: that sharply designed cover brought me to a book I might otherwise have missed.

In post-War Yugoslavia in 1954, young Theresa’s life is forever altered when her father announces that the family will leave their war-torn country and emigrate to Canada. The only home Theresa has ever known is the refuge camp, so the prospect of a country — little known and far away — is unappealing, no matter how optimistic her father may sound about the possibilities in a new land.

The title is gifted to the book by Theresa’s friend in the refuge camp, Martin, who give her a small stone he says is a gnome’s eye. Says Martin:

“A gnome’s eye always turns to stone when it falls out,” he tells her. “It will protect you from all things evil, alive or dead. Take it.”

And then Canada, where Theresa is frightened of everything, from the other tenants in the boarding house where the family initially shelters, to the children she meets at her new school… and just about everything in between. In a sort of comfortably surreal Lost-fashion, Theresa’s unbearable reality slowly morphs into the high relief of her own imagination: a place fraught with danger, but much less so than the reality she has been dealt.

The Gnome’s Eye is a charming fish out of water story with sharply imaginative elements that children nine to 12 will enjoy. Author Kerz emigrated to Canada when she was a child in the 1950s. One gets the feeling that the elements of The Gnome’s Eye that feel real enough to touch were quite hard won, indeed.

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1 Comment

  1. This was a beautifully written book. I couldn't put it down and cannot wait to share it with my children when they are old enough. In the meantime, I'm passing it along to all old enough to enjoy it.

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