I Am Not Esther is a New Zealand classic and Fleur Beale is one of New Zealand’s best authors for children and young adults. It has been in print for 14 years and is as popular today as it was when it was first printed. Random House New Zealand are celebrating Fleur’s amazing story by reissuing it with a great new cover. I asked Fleur if she would like to write a post for me about I Am Not Esther as part of NZ Book Month, so here are her thoughts.
I’ll always remember a phone call I got about a fortnight after the book was first published. The woman on the phone was so excited her words were tumbling over each other. She said I’d written her story and now at last she was able to say to friends and family, ‘Read this, and then you’ll understand.’
People are often surprised to hear that the original idea for the story came from a real incident where a sixteen year old boy was thrown out of home and declared dead simply because he refused to leave school in his final year.
Readers relate strongly to the situation of a person being forced to think, behave and live in a strictly prescribed manner. This isn’t the way we do things in today’s world, yet it is the situation many children are still brought up in.
In a way, Kirby is an orphan and I think stories about young people who are alone and have to battle against the world for their very survival speak to something primal within us.