Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake (Little, Brown & Company, 2019) A near-perfect middle grade coming-of-age story. Blake approaches the central premise with sensitivity and does so within a wider context of family relationships. The result is a beautifully crafted book—a single-day read that will entrance readers of all ages and orientation.
Playing Beatie Bow by Ruth Park (Thomas Nelson, 1980); audiobook read by Kate Hood (Bolinda, 2012) Ruth Park mixes time displacement with coming-of-age in a classic of Australian literature. 14-year-old Abigail Kirk, having fought with her mother, finds herself transported back to Sydney of 1873. Amidst the historical realism unfolds a beautifully told tale of hardship and self-discovery.
Boo by Neil Smith (Heinemann, 2015) Two boys strike up a friendship searching for their killer in thirteen-year-old heaven. Narrated in the first person, present tense, Boo, though neither ‘instantly charming’ nor ‘wickedly funny’ (as promised by the cover), is a well-conceived, cleverly realised post-murder mystery / coming-of-age story.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople dir. Taika Waititi (2016) A distinct, refreshingly understated vein of Kiwi humour runs through this New Zealand coming of age (at all ages) film. Sam Neil and newcomer Julian Dennison excel, playing the withdrawn farmer and troubled foster child who unwittingly set off an international manhunt.
Stand By Me dir. Rob Reiner (1986) A celebrated coming of age film, the success of which owes less to the journey undertaken — twelve-year-olds hiking in search of a dead body — than to the tempestuous dynamic forged by child actors Jerry O’Connell, Corey Feldman, Wil Wheaton and River Phoenix.