Review Blog

Mar 07 2013

Desmond and the very mean word by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Douglas Carlton Abrams

cover image

Ill. by A G Ford. Walker Books, 2013. ISBN 9781406343915.
(Ages: 6+) Picture book. Racism. Bullying. Forgiveness. People reading this book will be in no doubt about why it has been written and produced. Its message sings from the back cover and from Tutu's introduction. Schools with a strong moral focus may find it fills a niche in their programs, and others will find it fits with a growing number of books about bullying.
Seemingly based on Tutu's life, the hero of the story, Desmond, gets a new bike for his birthday. The background of the story, beautifully illustrated by Ford, has the setting in the place where Tutu grew up, the slums of South Africa.
The boy is dismayed when a group of boys call out a very mean word to him as he rides past. When Desmond talks to Father Trevor at school he is told that to forgive is the best thing to do. But Desmond is angry and cannot hold out forgiveness to these boys. So the scenario continues, the Father offering solace and words of comfort and Desmond feeling much the same, until he shouts words back at the boys. He feels awful about doing this until one day he sees the ringleader being bullied by his older brother. Later Desmond tells the boy he is sorry for hurting him,, and receives an apology in turn, and the two become friends.
The words of Father Trevor, that giving forgiveness will make you stronger and set you free are recalled at the end of the book.
An afterword by Archbishop Tutu underlines the work done by Father Trevor in his life and the lives of so many others in his community.
Fran Knight

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