Sticklebacks And Snowglobes

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Editorial and Opinion  |  House: Booksie Classic
My rollicking review of B.A. Goodjohn's "Sticklebacks And Snowglobes"

Submitted: September 17, 2009

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Submitted: September 17, 2009

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Aah, the seventies. A time for flared trousers, greasy hair and uncontrollable afros and cop moustaches. But what I bet you didn’t know is that the seventies was a peculiar time for children, and B.A. Goodjohn explores that, plus a side of raw emotion and tragedy.
Tot, a five-year-old living in a London housing commission in the year 1971, is an epileptic child with a hardworking mother, a trumpet-playing, big-dreaming father, a confused and pubescent sister Dorothy and a man next door to whom she teaches piano. Tot has about as many issues as a young girl can have; her epileptic fits mean that she has few friends, and what friends she does have are almost as troubled as she; Keesal is the Indian boy, bullied by the racist older children, and her other friend, Stacey, is confused about her gender, and pretends to be a boy to avoid having to persist through the troubles of the female world.
Not that Dorothy (Tot’s older sibling) lives in the Garden Of Eden, either; her friend Lily is gaining a bad reputation in the housing commission due to her lusty ways with boys, and Dorothy herself is infatuated with a boy scout at the Church fair.
And when Tot and Dorothy’s father runs away to New Orleans to accomplish his trumpeting dream, things turn upside down permanently.
I found this story got darker and darker the more it went along; Tot is too much of a naïve character to be in such a depressing setting, and I often wished for her to be rescued.
B.A. Goodjohn has a weird way of, after announcing a huge twist in the story, or a tragedy that happens, will cut to Tot’s mind, where she talks about idle, childlike fancies like snowglobes, fat people and cat’s-eye marbles…even when the looming actual story is getting out of control. I can’t decide whether I like that or not.
I can’t say I’ve ever read anything else by B.A.Goodjohn, but there are wide-open spaces in this story for a sequel.  If I could improve this story, I’d have liked to see more of Donald (Tot’s father) and how successful, or otherwise, he is in America. In a sequel, it would be great if he came back to the family.
For a book with such a desolate ending (okay, it’s not that depressing an ending-which-I-will-not-give-away, but it does unsettle me), Sticklebacks and Snowglobes made me notice things in my life that I normally would ignore, and for that I am grateful.
If a troll was about to devour either this book or four packets of Tim-Tams, I would probably sacrifice the Tim-Tams.


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