Michele Amitrano is a 9 year-old boy. He loves cycling with his bike named “Crock”, playing Subbuteo with his friend Salvatore, and imagining he is Tiger Jack, his Navajo Indian hero from the comics. Until one day he doesn’t need to pretend to live a dangerous adventure anymore, because he has a real one to deal with. It’s the day he discovers something that should have stayed hidden. Something that will show him that what his father had been telling him – “Monsters don’t exist. It’s men you should be afraid of”- is dreadfully true.
This could have been a perfect pick for the “something about me challenge”. It reminds me so much about my childhood in Sicily. The heat, the golden wheat fields, the running competitions, paying the forfeit after losing a race, the discovery of an abandoned house far away from home and the thrill of going inside, looking for some kind of treasure. The carob tree that we loved to climb. The dry river at the end of the field. The fights over who had to go and feed the dogs/wash the dishes/lay the table.
I was afraid of ghosts and my grandfather told me the same thing as Michele’s father once. He lived with Mafia all his life. He knew that men could be a lot more dangerous than monsters or ghosts.
That’s why maybe it felt authentic to me. The way children’s world is re-created is so true. Their funny logic, their rules, their stories, their fears are just like I remember them. If you can’t, then it means you have to read this book. It’ll help understand how kids’ minds work. It’ll remind you that they are always watching and listening, trying to make sense of our crazy logic.
Parents in this story are angry, frustrated, mostly poor and desperate to go far away, to the “North”. They don’t have time to listen to Michele, who has a secret bigger than him and would like to share it with his father. He’s sure that he will sort everything out, that he will make the monsters go away. But in the end, when grown-ups fail him, Michele will have to face his fears all by himself.
I’ve read this as part of the Movie Challenge. I’ve seen the film before reading the book and I loved it very much. It’s visually and emotionally stunning, the actors are perfect, the tension well built. For once I can’t say “the book is better” because both have something to give to the story. Through the book we get to hear Michele’s thoughts, while the film gives us the power of the visual emotion. Both are highly recommended!