cover image Bruises


Anke de Vries, Anke De Vries, Handprint. Boyds Mills Press, $15.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-1-886910-03-4

They're unlikely friends-cheerful Michael, who lives with his aunt and uncle in Holland, and withdrawn Judith, who has a horrifying secret life of abuse at the hands of her unmarried mother. The winner of two awards from the Dutch Children's Jury, this wrenching novel is almost unbearably heartbreaking in its graphic depiction of Judith's suffering: ""The fourth time, the lock gave, and her mother tumbled into the room. In her hand was the metal pipe from the vacuum cleaner. `Please... Mommy please...' Judith whispered tonelessly. But the first blows were already raining down on her.""Adults in contact with Judith are suspicious but willing to accept her excuses for her injuries; at last Judith and Michael's teacher joins forces with Michael to help her. An elegant parallel construction finds Michael struggling to give his estranged father a second chance and Judith struggling to realize her mother will not change. Michael's emotional bruises will heal, while Judith's prognosis is hopeful but not assured. Not a one-note issue book, this sophisticated, disturbing story presents its characters with sympathy for their vulnerabilities. Some readers may need adult guidance to cope with the strong content, but ultimately the message here is optimistic, suggesting that even the direst circumstances can be overcome. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)