________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 13 . . . . November 27, 2015


The Blue Vase.

Katarina Jovanovic. Illustrated by Josée Bisaillon.
Vancouver, BC: Tradewind Books, 2015.
118 pp., trade pbk., $12.95.
ISBN 978-1-896-58091-3.

Grades 2-5 / Ages 7-10.

Review by Harriet Zaidman.

**** /4



Marta rolled her eyes, but followed me into the playground anyway.

"What?" she barked, looking annoyed.

"Why are you doing this to me? I said I'm sorry and I paid you back. Wasn't my eraser collection enough? You know you're not telling them the truth."


"So?" I echoed, in disbelief. "It hurts that you're spreading lies about me."

"So what? I can do whatever I like," Marta looked me straight in the eye.

"But - I gave you my erasers!"

"Big deal! You think that makes up for what you did?"

She walked away, leaving me standing in the empty schoolyard.

Extortion isn't a topic most teachers talk about with their students, nor does it come up in most family discussions. Yet extortion happens among children – many adults may recall incidents from their own childhoods. It's an extension of bullying that can seriously damage the self-esteem of a victim.

      A bully looks for moments of opportunity. In The Blue Vase, Marta seizes an opportunity to exploit Sonia's lack of knowledge about the true value of a blue vase belonging to Marta's grandmother when Sonia accidentally breaks it. Marta capitalizes on Sonia's genuine remorse and concerns about repaying the cost.

      Marta begins a campaign of demanding money, food and Sonia's treasured possessions, always with the threat that she will expose Sonia's crime. She incites other girls to intimidate Sonia at school, too. Sonia begins to avoid other children, to live in fear of whatever tricks Marta and the other girls might spring on her, to lie to her parents and fake illness so she can miss school.

      Katarina Jovanovic's characters are typical children. Sonia is a recent immigrant, still a little innocent about the way life works in her new world. Marta is self-confident, a girl with charisma. She has figured out how to capitalize on a situation and uses her skills in negative ways.

      Jovanovic has written a chapter book that children can read for themselves and learn from. The children's conversations are natural and the course of events believable. Children do keep secrets from their parents, no matter how many times they've been told to share problems with adults. A good kid like Sonia feels she has betrayed her upbringing. Because she knows her parents struggle for money, she tries to shield them from unnecessary worry, resulting in bigger problems for herself.

      The short chapters are printed in a larger font that makes it easier for young children to read. They are punctuated by Governor-General's Literary Award for Illustration nominee Josée Bisaillon's engaging black and white illustrations. The drawings depict Sonia's internal anguish (she is seen hiding a broom closet under the stairs to avoid Marta stealing her lunch), but Bisaillon also shows Sonia in loving situations with her mother, with her caring teacher, etc.

      Girls especially will identify with Sonia's plight. They'll keep reading to find out if Marta's grandmother will notice the vase is missing, how she will react when she finds out, or how Sonia will ever escape Marta's grip. A teacher could also make good use of The Blue Vase as a read-aloud book in the classroom to augment lessons about bullying - and extortion - and how a victim should respond to these threats.

      The Blue Vase will be a useful addition to a school library collection.

Highly Recommended.

Harriet Zaidman is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
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