What Is The Meaning Of Life And Is There Any Meaning At All? A Review of Nothing
by Janne Teller
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Teller, Janne. 2010. “Nothing.” Translated by Martin Aitken. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
When Pierre Anthon comes to the conclusion that nothing in life has any meaning and lodges himself in a plum tree, the rest of his 7th-grade class devises a plan to coax Pierre from the tree and prove him wrong. What happens next is the accumulating morbidity of sacrifice as each classmate forfeits something of importance to the heap of meaning, but what happens when the heap of meaning isn’t meaningful enough to change Pierre’s mind or sustain his classmates?
Though I did not personally enjoy this book, I can see the value in it and why it was worthy of being a Mildred L. Batchelder Honor book. According to the “About the (Mildred L.) Batchelder Award” web page on the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) site, the award is a continuum of Batchelder’s life work which sought to remove international and intercultural boundaries through literature, this book does this task very well through creating an experience that is universal to the human condition. Looking further at the criteria for the award, this book fully and consistently develops the main theme of existentialism through the plot, style, and characterization. One reason I can see why this book was an honor and not possibly a winner is because it would be hard for a reader to be able to sense that the book came from another country unless they were specifically told. There is nothing to really distinguish the setting or culture from any other, but I believe this is all part of the author’s intention to make the story one of a global understanding.
Again considering the criteria for the Batchelder Award, I believe that there are many reasons why this book has the potential to appeal and be relatable to children in the USA. Primarily, I think the book accomplishes the elimination of global barriers in that
it concerns a basic issue faced universally, what is the meaning of life and is there any meaning at all? CLICK TO TWEET
This is a question that I feel crosses time, space, and generations. One additional reason I feel that children from the USA can relate to this book even though it was produced in a foreign country, is because it deals with peer pressure and bullying, both of which are again international issues that affect children no matter where they live or what language they speak.
I completely agree that children from the USA should read international literature. As a child, I was always interested in other cultures and in stories from other countries. My grandmother and mother read a lot of international folktales and myths to me. Listening to them, and later reading them myself, caused me to think in global terms and also increased my empathy and compassion. In an increasingly connected world, we cannot avoid interacting with others at an international level; yet, if children are exposed to the differences and more importantly similarities of human beings, they can better connect and cooperate with others from around the world to promote a better and more peaceful future. As a way to cultivate children’s ongoing humanity, it is important to read international literature because through it; children can begin to see the shared experience which is the human condition.
Yours Truly, LeNae
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