Sunday, July 23, 2017

Little Oleg by Margaret and John Cort

First off this is a very old book (1965) - over fifty years old actually - but as you may have guessed it is new to me.  We are about to hold our annual library donate-a-book event. This is always so exciting as we display over 1000 new books and over the coming weeks students will begin to read the books they donate and then share other new books with their friends.  We have spent many months preparing for this important library event and one of our final boxes of new books arrived last week.  Inside was Little Oleg - a book I certainly needed to discover.

"Once upon a time there were two friends, called Eric and Oleg.  They lived in a northern country.  Eric's house was large and he had several acres of land. Oleg's house was small and all the land he owned was his vegetable garden."

Do you get a sense here of these characters?  Reading between the lines does one seem proud and perhaps selfish and the other humble and generous?

Eric's house burns down.  Oleg offers hospitality. He shares his limited food.  He even helps to rebuild Eric's house but nothing he does is good enough for Eric.  The house "looked quite splendid and Oleg felt proud as he had done most of the work. 'Of course', said Eric, it's not as grand as my old house, but it will do."

The truly special thing about Oleg, though, is that despite this criticism, despite the fact that he has gone into debt trying to feed Eric's enormous appetite, he continues to show kindness and caring towards his neighbour. Oleg's fortunes do change thanks to Eric who unwittingly gives Oleg a coat with valuable buttons.  Oleg hosts a party to celebrate a return to the good times but Eric cannot see through his own misery and pride.  He does not recognize the hand of friendship when it is offered to him and he simply retreats into his new home, alone.

This might look like a book for younger students but it does contain a deep message that you could share with older students.  I do think there would be lots to discuss here especially around the topic of decision making.

I would pair this book with Herbert and Harry by Pamela Allen.

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