Synopsis from Goodreads:
Be careful what you wish for ...Andi is short. And she has lots of wishes. She wishes she could play on the school basketball team, she wishes for her own bedroom, but most of all she wishes that her long lost half brother, Bernardo, could come and live in London, where he belongs. Then Andi's biggest wish comes true and she's minutes away from becoming someone's little sister. As she waits anxiously for Bernardo to arrive from the Philippines, she hopes he'll turn out to be tall and just as mad as she is about basketball. When he finally arrives, he's tall all right. But he's not just tall ...he's a GIANT. In a novel packed with humour and quirkiness, Gourlay explores a touching sibling relationship and the clash of two very different cultures.
What Hooked Me:
This début novel for children and teens is very sweet and touching. There are a lot of superstitions and folklores that Filipinos take seriously as the themes are mostly geared to what they value most - their love of family and country, a passion instilled and alive no matter if they have actually taken roots in far away lands. Filipinos are also passionate about basketball, a sport that allows them to overcome their lack of height with their innate speed and creative talent. So I really like that, through the alternating voices of Andi and Bernardo, the author was able to successfully forge all these elements together to tell one solid and refreshing story of brotherly sisterly friendship and love.
So many armpits, so little deodorant. The whole world is heading out to Heathrow to meet long-lost relatives. I am wedged between the tummies of the two fattest men in the world." (opening lines)
'Does she think I needed impressing? I mean, Mum isn't exactly God's gift to the human race in the height department. I'm the smallest in Year Eight and I'm still taller than her. She's so short she needs an ID to prove she's old enough to buy wine at the supermarket. 'I don't understand,' she always argues at the Tesco Express. 'Where I come from, there's never any problem.'
Well, London isn't the Philippines, Mum.'(2)
'Then I finally get why Mum goes on and on about Bernardo being tall.
Rocky, the captain of my basketball team, is TALL.
Michael Jordan is TALL.
But Bernardo is no way tall like Rocky or Michael Jordan.
Bernardo is a GIANT.'(3)
"We are a village usually noticed not for what we have but for what we don't. We have no square, no supermarket, no bar, no church -- the nearest confessional being over the next hill in the barrio of San Isidro. The houses don't have much either: no clay-tiled roofs, not much paint left on the old planked walls, no tidy pavements outside each rusty garden gate."(7)
'The spirit of Bernardo Carpio has returned in you, Nardo,' Old Tibo, the barber, told me. 'San Andres has always prayed for Bernardo Carpio to return, and now he has.'
And it was Tibo who pointed out the absence of earthquakes. 'Since the boy began to grow, the earthquakes have stopped. This boy has saved the barrio.'
And the people came.
And they brought gifts.
And they made me their hero.'(13-14)
'Height isn't everything, Dad says. And don't I know it!
'I'm taking a risk, Andi,' Coach said. 'Seeing as you're the shortest and the youngest on the team.'
True. I was the shortest and the youngest.
But he still picked me.
I was point guard!'(15)
'So though her wish came true, it took Bernardo away from her.
Maybe that's the way wishes work.
I wished for point guard.
Mum wished for a house.
We both got our wishes. But one good thing deleted the other, like a finger falling on the wrong computer key.
'There was a picture in pen and ink of a giant standing between two cliff sides, muscles bulging as he strained to push them apart. The caption said: Villagers await the return of a giant legend named Bernardo Carpio. Folklore has it that only the giant can truly save the village from destruction.
So imagine what a big deal it was when people discovered a boy amongst them named Bernardo who was shooting a giant bamboo.'(61)
'He flexed his shoulder muscles and pushed the ball into the sky. It arced high but I reached up at just the right moment and tipped it gently into the basket. It bounced on the yellow floor with a satisfying thunk.
Jabby caught it after the bounce.
It was the one move I could do on the basketball court. Jabby and I spent a lot of time practising variations on it. Under the basket. To the right. To the left. It wasn't proper basketball, but at least it was something we could do together, since with my big feet and my brittle knees, I couldn't run to save myself.'(73)
'OK, this is the thing about me and basketball: I may be small and I could be faster... But I never miss.
I. Never. Miss.
It's some kind of weight-versus-strength-versus-balance thing. I just don't miss. I shoot and the ball swishes through the basket. Hook shot. Set shot. Turn-around-jump shot. Lay-up. Under the basket. From the free-throw line. And even way, way out, from the three-point line.
It all goes in.
'The other day I spotted a piece in a magazine about Neutralizing Flashpoints. I only read it because it was a new film at the cinema.
But it turned out that Flashpoints referred to good old-fashioned family rows. And Neutralizing was just fancy jargon for telling everyone to stay cool. The secret? Information. Apparently parents could Neutralize Flashpoints by simply keeping their teenagers informed about what was going on.
Mum would get an F in Neutralizing Flashpoints,'(133)
'It was noon in London. The Philippines was eight hours ahead, so it would be 8 p.m. in San Andres. This being Sunday, Auntie would have made lunch of some pork belly deep-fried in chicken oil so that the crackling popped like popcorn. She would have made soup with steamed milkfish belly, tamarind juice and swamp cabbage, seasoned with lime.
My mouth watered at the thought.'(175)
'It was a habit, I guess.
How many times did I go through the set-up with Jabby? Jabby simply threw a high ball -- he didn't even need to aim -- and I stepped towards the goal at the last moment to tip into the basket.
So when the boy with hair like a toilet brush threw that high ball, it seemed the most natural thing in the world to step into the court and tip it in."(189)
'While Bernardo was talking, I had stared hard at his face. It's funny how you could spend time with someone and not look closely at him. I mean, really closely.
With Bernardo you looked everywhere but his face.
Mostly because he was so tall, there was so much to take in.
But also because you were afraid of what you might see.'(207)
'I thought my heart would burst.
We talked from school gate to front door, from front door to kitchen table. We made a pizza, has some supper and then went upstairs to Andi's room and talked. The years of being apart seemed to fall away. I thought my heart would burst.'(210)
'In a funny way, I think I do get a lot of Tagalog. Language is just like a film soundtrack. I've heard Mum and Dad say, Hey, that piece of music was the soundtrack of my childhood! Well. Bernardo's barok English was just him singing his soundtrack in another key. Not his key. My key. When I thought about it that way, it wasn't the funny, broken English that I heard but the story he wanted to tell.
And what a story it was.'(222)
'Everything pales into insignificance.'(230)
A David Fickling Book Kindle Edition
Book idea from Jinky @ Jinky is Reading, and her review is HERE.