Girl 38 is Kat's comic strip creation- a super-heroine who is brave and bold and who Kat wishes she could be more like, particularly when dealing with her best friend, Gem. Things escalate when a new boy, Julius, arrives at school and Kat finds herself drawn into Gem's plan of action for Operation Loser Boy, a campaign of spite against him. As Kat questions her friendship, she takes solace in her new relationship with her neighbour, Ania, and the story she shares about her own experiences during World War II. Will Kat find the courage to do what she knows is right? And will she find the perfect ending for Girl 38?
Girl 38: Finding a Friend' is a powerful, beautifully written story which is perfect for children at the top of primary and into lower secondary. It highlights the importance of being true to yourself, of friendship and of valuing others. Weaving events from the past with those of the present, it is thought-provoking and challenging whilst being a very enjoyable read.
Each character is very well drawn. For example, Gem is thoroughly unpleasant, yet the reader is allowed glimpses of vulnerability which make her more rounded. Kat's parents are also well developed. Hard working and busy, they are still a real presence in her life: they have clearly seen through Gem and are not very happy about the friendship, but are supportive of their daughter's choices.
Friendship is a precious thing and is so important, but to flourish it needs to be formed on a basis of mutual trust, understanding and affection. When these elements are not there, it is easy to feel trapped- by habit, loyalty or fear- and things can go very wrong. Ewa Jozefkowicz manages to capture and explore these feelings perfectly through Kat's changing relationship with Gem, offering an excellent way into opening up discussions about what friendship really is. Would a true friend really act in this way? Would a true friend manipulate and control someone else like this? Without wishing to give too much away, it also illustrates the importance not letting others have access to your phone! The reader is able to share Kat's unease and sense of shame at her actions, her wish that she could be stronger and make a stand whilst recognising her reasons for the choices she makes.
The relationship between Ania and Kat is wonderful, illustrating the importance of support and friendship across generations. Oral history is precious and fascinating and as Ania shares her story, both she and Kat gain from the experience. Ania's Polish heritage is also valued , adding colour and realism to the story.
What a way to start my New Year's reading! 'Girl 38' is an excellent read and one which I will be recommending to anyone who will listen! Brilliant!
Girl 38: Finding a Friend Ewa Jozefkowicz
Zephyr ISBN: 978-1786698971
Published March 2019
You can read our review of ‘The Mystery of the Colour Thief’ here.