A blog that discusses literature for young people.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

"How Hedley Hopkins Did a Dare...." by Paul Jennings

Possibly the longest book title of all time!

After placing such a detailed overview of the storyline in the title, Jennings hardly needed to write a blurb for his latest book - so he didn't!

This is indeed the story of Hedley Hopkins, a young man who "did a dare, robbed a grave, made a new friend who might not have been there at all, and while he was at it committed a terrible sin which everyone was doing even though he didn't know it". In the author's notes, Jennings admits that this is a largely autobiographical tale that describes some of the trials and tribulations of his own childhood. He captures young Hedley’s feeling of isolation, his deep desire for inclusion and his embarrassed sexual awakening with poignant and tender accuracy.

In Jane Sullivan's article about Paul Jennings (The Age, May 28, 2005) Jennings discusses his own childhood in more detail and explains that his relationship with his parents was in fact worse than the one he portrays for Hedley. He reiterates that Hedley’s sense of loneliness and isolation in the book almost exactly mirrors his own experience. In discussing the scene in which Hedley is bewildered and terrified when he unexpectedly experiences his first ‘wet dream’, Jennings admits that this was also his own experience.

“I don't think it's gratuitous," Jennings says of the ejaculation scene. "It was part of his loneliness, that he didn't know about it. I want boys to read this when they are 11 or 12, before it happens, and take the anxiety out of it, so they don't feel they are the only one.”

To read Jane Sullivan's article in full click here.

How Hedley Hopkins Did a Dare..... will appeal to both younger readers and adults. The younger readers will focus on the steady stream of page-turning action that is punctuated with some truly laugh-out-loud comedic moments; while adult readers will enjoy these elements, coupled with a nostalgic journey into a 1950’s childhood, filled with swap cards, British bulldog and parents who don’t forewarn their children about the surprises of puberty.

I loved this book and think that it is likely to get Jennings noticed in the 2006 CBCA Book of the Year Awards.

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