Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Everything I've never said by Samantha Wheeler

Ava is almost twelve years old
Ava likes pink clothes not purple
She would like jam on her toast not Vegemite
Nature documentaries on television are much better than Finding Nemo and Happy Feet
Ava cannot reach out to touch the communication cards her teacher keeps shoving at her
Swimming makes her feel calm and relaxed - swimming is a joy but waiting to get into the pool and being pushed back into clothes at the end of the session is pure torture
Ava loves her mum, her dad and her sister Nic but she cannot tell them

Samantha Wheeler is an Australian children's author who lives in Queensland. Everything I've never said is a book based on her own family experience.  Samantha's daughter has Rett Syndrome which means she cannot speak, has difficulty swallowing and also has dyspraxia making it very difficult to perform even the most basic movements. Everything I've never said is a very brave book coming from personal experience. This book will take you on a highly emotional journey.

Ava has a lot to say but only we, as readers, can hear her. It is so frustrating for Ava and of course for her family.  Over time Ava has had to use the only tools available to her to communicate - screaming and biting. Of course this is highly distressing for everyone and sadly for Ava, no matter how hard she tries, her outbursts seem to come at the worst of times. Ava loves her sister Nicole. Ava does not mean for disasters to happen and worse she cannot tell her sister that she is so sorry. Here is a scene in the first chapter when the family have come to see Nic perform with her band.

"Don't scream, don't scream, don't scream. ... The second verse is perfect. ... The whole crowd is on their feet, clapping and stomping and dancing along. My chest heaves. Too loud. TOO LOUD. Before I can stop it, my hand jerks out and whacks the milkshake. CRASH! The music stops. Pink milk slides down Mel's cheeks. ... But that's not the worst of it. My heart plunges as a piercing scream echoes through the hall. Kids cover their ears. Teachers squint to the rafters, looking for the worlds biggest cockatoo. But it isn't a cockatoo. It's me, Ava. Nic's biggest secret."

This is a book for a mature Primary student. There are some wonderful people in Ava's life but there are also some adults, who should know better, who are actually very cruel. They way these people treat Ava may shock a sensitive reader. Her teacher Wendy is almost sadistic. The depiction of Ava in the class time out room is especially confronting.  Thank goodness for friends like Aimee and problem solvers like Kieran. I was cheering each time someone showed kindness to Ava.

If you have read Out of my Mind by Sharon Draper then Everything I've never said is the perfect companion volume.

Here is a trailer.  Here is a very detailed and heart-felt review by Megan Daley. Here is a set of very detailed teacher's notes and questions.

Every so often, a book comes along that touches your heart in places so tender it hurts. A book that makes you cry because of the frustration and sadness in the world, but also makes you laugh out loud with joy because of small kindnesses and the many sources of happiness that are to be found despite the pain. Cass Moriarity

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