Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Spud by John Van de Ruit

This best-seller in South Africa about a boy’s life at boarding school and his eccentric family is set as a diary, which picks you up immediately and keeps you engrossed throughout. John Van de Ruit, the author, has written a sequel to the book and sold the film rights to the first. (The film will use Van de Ruit’s own boarding school as its setting). The hero is called Spud by his classmates, because he hasn’t hit puberty yet and consequently his ‘equipment’ is small, relatively speaking. The book’s tone is light and rollicking, depicting the pranks and grossness which perhaps only growing boys are capable of imagining and putting into practice. (One boy, who loves to eat, is devoted to breaking his own record for extended farting) Despite the larks, Van de Ruit engages our interest by presenting Spud in all his different moods – being afraid, being shy and feeling stirred by girls, a teacher, and by the love of reading and performing. (He takes the part of Oliver in a school performance.) Most important, he finds loyalty to friends, and the courage to stand up for them. It shows us a culture that still seems to leave youth to form their own society, which has its hazards in regard to excessive cruelty, but also has the benefit of a ‘baptism by fire’ kind of growing-up.

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