I came across this book in a local second hand book store Logical Unsanity. I was looking for books for Mr Eleven, who is very particular and doesn’t like the mainstream book series like Beast Quest.
The picture on the cover appealed to me. Not for Mr Eleven but me. I have lived in Europe and it portrayed a scene nostalgically familiar to me.
I turned to the back of the book and read the blurb.
‘Sometimes you really are terrible Hazel.’
Good thought Hazel. Everyone should be terrible sometimes.
I love that Hazel lives in a world where adults and children talk to each other not at each other. However Hazel is just as keen to sort the adults out as she is the other children.
You would think that Hazel liked to be right in the middle of things getting all of the attention but it’s not the case. She enjoys her own company too.
We learn this in the first lines … Hazel Green looked down from her balcony. It was only six o’clock, but that was the best time of the day because hardly anyone else was awake.
This hints that someone special may be awake!
Suddenly a man appeared on the pavement below.
He had a big belly with a white apron tied around it. His head was bald. From above, where Hazel was watching him, he looked like a round dumpling with a cherry on top. He stopped and stretched out his arms. He threw back his head and warmed his face in the sunlight.
Now we understand the very first line. Hazel needed to see Mr Volio from above so we could have this magical image of the baker looking like one of his own pastries!
For the children of the building life seems idyllic … You only had to walk in and Mr Volio, slapping his belly or twirling his moustache, would call out to Elizabeth, the lady who served behind the counter, to give you a cake.
Things were not the same at the rival baker … Mr Murray, on the other hand, was thin and bony, and no one got a sample in his shop, not even of the pumpernickel bread which was supposed to be so famous.
The rivalry runs throughout the story. Mr Volio has invented a new pastry to be kept secret until Frogg Day.
He reached under the cloth and took a pastry out. He handled it as carefully as if it were made of glass. Everyone in the bakery turned to watch …
Mr Volio put the pastry in Hazel’s hand. ‘Now you tell me, Hazel, whether Mr Murray has ever made something like this!’
Other endearing characters include the florist Mrs Gluck.
Mrs Gluck frowned. She gazed thoughtfully at the bouquet she was making. Her hands didn’t stop moving for an instant, as if they could make the bouquet all by themselves while she tried to remember.
And Hazel’s friend,Marcus Bunn who didn’t like to admit that he was fascinated watching the florist at work.
‘Come on,’ said Hazel, ‘let’sgo.’
Marcus looked up with a start.
‘You don’t want to watch Mrs Gluck arrange flowers do you?’
‘Of course not,’ spluttered Marcus, although he had already turned back to her again, Eager to see how she was going to use the huge, bright orange bloom that she had in her hand.
Hazel and Marcus roam from one shopkeeper to the next, enthusiastically welcomed as equals.
The other children in the Moodey Building are not so interested in the adults. Some are more vocal and yet no one really listens to them.
Hazel watched Robert Fischer jumping ahead of them. His satchel flipped up and down on his back. With a bit of luck it would knock him in the back of the head.
or rivaled Hazel for leadership like Leon Davis.
The next day, when Robert Fischer jumped around on the pavement like an orang-utan, Leon Davis told him to stop. It was a shame thought Hazel, because Robert’s jumping was definitely getting better, and he really might have turned into an ape if he kept practising.
According to Wikipedia Odo Hirsch (born 1962) is the pen name of David Kausman, an Australian author of children’s books. He was born in Melbourne, where he trained to be a doctor, but moved to London, where he currently lives.
After working as a doctor in both Melbourne and London, he joined Amnesty International, where he reported on torture victims and examined hospital conditions in Eastern Europe. After doing a master’s degree in political thought at Cambridge University, he joined McKinsey Consulting in 1997. This was when his first novel for children, Antonio S and the Mystery of Theodore Guzman, was published. His other books include Bartlett and the Ice Voyage, which won the Blue Peter Book Award. His novels have been shortlisted many times for the Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards.
So I don’t think the book is set in Melbourne or London but somewhere in Eastern Europe which holds a fascination of it’s own for me.
You can tell from his writing that Kausman is a compassionate man who notices people. You can tell from his bio that he must have seen a lot.
What this means to me is that his writing for children tells deep and beautiful, tender and quirky tales that restore your faith in humanity. I would like a friend like Hazel Green.
Actually everyday I have the pleasure of observing children who have the independent spirit of Hazel Green and I am so glad that they are the future.