The Simple Things written by Bill Condon & Illustrated by Beth Norling
Published by Allen & Unwin
Simply put, The Simple Things by Bill Condon is an emotional journey.
I love stories that really draw me in. Bill Condon’s words wrapped around me like a warm blanket. It was as if I was a character in the book and was able to feel every word on the page.
Meet Stephen Kelly his father John and mother, Rachel. They’ve come to visit Aunty Lola for her eightieth birthday, not for a day but for three weeks. Eek! How will Stephen survive? He’s never met his great aunt Lola and he doesn’t particularly want to. After all, there are more exciting things to do when you are ten.
Lola sends Stephen money twice a year, one for his birthday and the other at Christmas time. Stephen reciprocates with a thank you letter; apart from that they are strangers. What on earth will they have to talk about?
Lola greets Stephen with open arms, but he’s not having any of that cuddle stuff. Not a good start!
Every attempt by Rachel to organise a birthday bash for Lola is thwarted. Instead Rachel and John set about doing some repairs around the house, leaving Stephen with lots of time to spend with Aunty Lola.
Stephen being like any other ten year old loves a good prank and he assumes Aunty Lola thinks the same. Boy was he wrong!
Crabby, argumentative, irritable and surly with a voice sharp and pointy like a cactus’ is how Lola appears to the outside world. The simple truth is, she’s been alone for so long.
Generally shy, although he does occasionally blurt out some not so appropriate comments he’s herd his parents say, for example Mum reckons he should kiss Aunty Lola goodnight after all she is almost eighty and might not wake in the morning. Eek!!
With the help of Aunty Lola’s neighbour Norm Smith and his visiting granddaughter Allie, Stephen learns about the simple things in life –fishing, cricket, climbing trees.
Stephen’s reaction to catching his first fish is touching and reinforces his innocence.
But Stephen’s innocence truly shines in his conversations with Lola. You can easily picture his wide-eyed enthusiasm for Lola’s every word helping to soften an old woman’s heart.
After a serious health scare Lola seeks Stephen’s help in destroying a family secret she has protected for many years.
Beth Norling’s whimsical illustrations add that special touch to Bill’s heart-warming story. Each chapter Beth has captured the essence of Bill’s words in her simple line drawings.
This story was easy to read, easy to understand and definitely easy to relate too. Who wasn't scared of older relative when they were younger, especially one who was very very very old.
Bill’s message is clear; you are never too young or too old to enjoy new friendships, rekindle old ones and always live life to the fullest. We might not grow as old as Aunty Lola or be as wise as Stephen but you can never ever ask too many questions.
Reading The Simple Things was like peeking through the window and watching this bond between a boy and his aunt unfold. Captivating!
CKT Book Reviewer
Author: Bill Condon
Illustrator: Beth Norling
Title: The Simple Things
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Published: February 2014