Welcome to ‘She Said/She Said’ where our GGC Members from across Canada review the book of the month and share their opinions with us.
This month, we take a look at The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen, published by Harper Collins Canada. Our reviewers rate this book as follows:
Suitable for adults with none to very little profanity, sexual content or mature themes within the context of the story.
Children, 8 – 14 years. The subject matter gets a bit dark, but I think it has a very powerful message about standing up to bullies, that will resonate particularly with that age group. I believe young adults and adults will also be affected by this book.
She Said: Jaclyn M. Qua-Hiansen
Raised by an emotionally distant, evangelical Christian father, 10-year-old Judith McPherson looks forward to the world after Armageddon, when she will be reunited with her mother and free from Neil, the school bully. She finds refuge in The Land of Decoration, a miniature world she has created in her bedroom from discarded scraps. Then she discovers that she can work miracles – whatever she does in the Land of Decoration comes true in real life.
Land of Decoration is a powerful, emotional novel. Anyone who has been bullied can relate to Judith’s desire to give Neil a taste of his own medicine. However, Judith soon discovers that punishment is not the same thing as justice, and that the power to inflict harm is actually not very powerful at all. In fact, the worse things get for Neil, the more powerless and out of control Judith feels. She believes she has caused this harm, and yet is unable to take it back or make things better.
In contrast, Judith finds a different kind of power in the courage inspired by her teacher, Mrs. Pierce. Smart and sassy, Mrs. Pierce refuses to put up with Neil’s antics. More importantly, she reaches out to Judith, and offers the love and support Judith misses from her father. In a particularly uplifting scene, Judith looks Neil in the eye and realizes she no longer fears him, that in fact, it is now easy to tell Mrs. Pierce that yes, Neil had done something to hurt her. Now that’s power.
Judith learns that strength comes not from fantasy, but from relationships. When isolated, even adults like her father can be vulnerable to bullies, but, when willing to accept help, even children like Judith can find the strength to take control.
Jaclyn is a book blogger, gallery assistant at the Art Gallery of Mississauga and bookseller at Nicholas Hoare Books. Read more on her blog http://literarytreats.wordpress.com.
She Said: Kerri Casper
Guider, 82nd Winnipeg Brownies
This is the story of a 10-year-old girl, Judith, being brought up by her father in a very religious household. Her mother passed away many years ago. Judith and her father live simply and read the Bible often, as they believe an Armageddon is imminent. Judith is also a victim of bullying at school, by a boy in her grade named Neil.
Judith escapes her reality in the Land of Decoration. She has created this miniature world of homes and valleys, boats and farms from materials she has found or that were her mother’s.
On a Sunday night, dreading returning to school Monday because of the bullying, she has the idea to create snow in the Land of Decoration, and was encouraged by a voice to add more until the entire world was covered in snow. When she awoke the next morning, the real world is covered in snow, and her town is shut down. It became clear to her that she had created a miracle and that God had given her a gift, where the things she created in the Land of Decoration became a reality.
Judith becomes empowered through this gift, helping others and taking on her bully. But with power comes responsibility and some of her actions have negative consequences, which she must learn to deal with, or find solutions to her consequences.
I think the story in this book relates to the anti-bullying program topic of Girl Guides of Canada, and also compares to one main goal of the organization, empowering girls. Judith was empowered through an unconventional method and took control of her life. I would encourage others to pick up this book as it was an interesting read with a powerful story.
Kerri has been a Member of Girl Guides of Canada since September 1995 when she joined Sparks. She continued in Guiding through the girl membership levels and is now “Tawny Owl” to 21 Brownies in the 82nd Winnipeg Brownies!
She Said: TaraLee Houston
Guide Unit #44 Leader & Sunridge District Commissioner, Regina, Saskatchewan
I highly recommend reading: The Land of Decoration by Canadian Grace McCleen. I could not put it down. This book is full of suspense and the truths of childhood as seen through the eyes and imagination of a 10-year-old girl. I felt like I could almost see what the main character was seeing from the vivid and detailed descriptions throughout the novel. This story is a great way to remember what it’s like to be a child and the sometimes frightening thoughts, feelings and situations that children often encounter in the grown up world. The author’s detailed descriptions of Judith’s universe bring back memories of how amazing and wondrous a child’s imagination can be. I especially liked the constant not knowing if situations in the story were good or evil. This made the book suspenseful, and made me want to read more to find out what was going to happen next to Judith and her father. This book is a must read to recall memories of what it’s like to be a child with an active imagination in a grown up world, and how it can be a very frightening place. While this book could be read by youth, I think it’s better suited for adults.
Looking for more good reads? Check out past reviews by these and other reviewers for our Girl Guides/Harper Collins Canada book club:
- The Flight of Gemma Hardy
- How the Girl Guides Won the War
- A Walk Across the Sun
- 100 Photos That Changed Canada
- Persuasion: A New Approach to Changing Minds
- Everything We Ever Wanted
- Reinvention of Love
- Big Girl Small
- My Dear I Wanted to Tell You