by Alki Zei
Translated by John Thornley
Winner IBBY prize for Teens
Winner Bookworms prize for teen readers
Shortlisted for The Marsh Award for Children’s Literature in Translation
Tina’s life in Germany had been so happy, it never occurred to her that one day her parents might split. Or – worse still – send her back to Greece to live with her grandmother! But she’s stopped listening to her and her three annoying friends.
Tina doesn’t mind anything anymore. She’s found the answer. With the help of her friend Wick, and a really amazing little blue pill… then lots more amazing little pills… then lots of really incredible lies…
Sometimes it’s as if she’s in heaven, sometimes she’s crashing back down to earth, and now – there’s no return. Or is there?
“Written with a fine and original humour, with a discreet sense of the innocent happiness of childhood… within the borders of a world that collapses…the theme of the novel is universal.” James Forman, New York Times
“Alki Zei’s work – addressed to children but also read with great interest by grown-ups – is innovative and avant-garde. Her themes (recent history, social problems — divorce, drugs — contemporary problems of bourgeois society – consumerism, transcultural relations) occupy the mind and interest of the child of today. This fact is reaffirmed not only by the frequent reprinting of Alki Zei’s books in Greece but also of her many publications, in translation, abroad. Alki Zei has definitely contributed to the renewal of children’s literature thanks to the aesthetic, social and educational value of her work.” Ada Katsiki-Givalou, Professor of Greek and Children’s Literature, University of Athens
“Alki Zei’s description of Tina’s unravelling makes the heart beat faster and frequently puts a lump in the throat. She has an uncanny knack of getting right inside Tina’s head, and, to use a cliché, you feel her pain acutely. Isolated, friendless, homesick for her parents, she discovers drugs, and then finds she has the ability to lie ceaselessly and steal from her gran. Eventually when Tina is sick, a teacher manages to reach her by introducing Marina, his girlfriend, who has her own tale to tell. ‘She bent down and kissed me. Since the time I left Aachen, no one had hugged me or kissed me. Every evening mum and dad used to put me to bed. ‘Goodnight Tina’. ‘Sweet dreams’. But here nobody ever has, not one single time. And right there, Zei has touched the core of this story in a remarkable way.
What could have been a misery tale is robustly redeemed by humour – I laughed out loud several times – and some seriously sharp and funny characters, particular the three Demi’s, the longtime friends of gran, who shared prison with her during the occupation. There are stories within stories here, each one given its own shape and space. Highly recommended.” – Clodagh Corcoran in INIS MAGAZINE CHILDREN’S BOOK IRELAND, Summer 2007 issue
Full review here
by Vangelis Hadjivasileiou
Article published in ELEFTHEROTYPIA newspaper on 22/6/2003
By focusing her narration exclusively on the expression of a thirteen-year old girl, Alki Zei succeeds in reaching a lot more than the child is in a position to know. This achievement is due to the careful planning of the plot and to the step-by-step development of the relations between the characters. May I add here that while the book does not try to conceal its educational nature (an effort to spot and overcome a burning social issue), there is not a shadow of didacticism or preaching, which could lie heavily on its world. With lively characters, a usually underlying humour and a perfect economy of power, Alki Zei creates a complete novel, to be read by readers of any age.
Read full review here
Essay about Zei’s work published in Kathimerini – read it here
About the author
Alki Zei (b.December 15, 1923, Athens , Greece – d.February 27, 2020, Athens, Greece, was a distinguished Greek novelist and writer of children’s literature.
She fought for the Resistance against the German occupation in World War II. She studied at the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Athens, then during the Civil War fled to the Soviet Union. She studied at the Theater Drama School (Odeion) in Athens and at the scenography department of the Moscow Institute of Cinematography VGIK. From 1954 to 1964 she lived in the Soviet Union as a political refugee . In 1964, she and her family returned to Greece, but all left again when the junta took power in 1967. This time she remained in Paris, returning only after the fall of the dictatorship.
Alki Zei started writing at a very young age. In her high school years, she began writing plays for puppets . Her first novel, ‘The Tiger in the Shop Window’ ( Το Καπλάνι της Βιτρίνας ), (1963) was inspired by her childhood in Samos and is semi-autobiographical. A series of children’s books followed, and in 1987 her first adult novel, ‘Achilles’ Bride’ (Η αρραβωνιαστικιά του Αχιλλέα), appeared . Her books have been translated into many languages.
Her novel for teenagers ‘Tina’s Web’ ( Η σνσταντίνα και οι αράχνες της ) won the IBBY prize in Greece for best book for older children and Alki Zei was nominated for the Hans Christian Andersen writing and the Astrid Lindgren Prize for literature. She was awarded the Mildred L. Batchelder Prize for the English translation and publication in the United States of America of ‘Wildcat Under Glass’ (1970), ‘Petros’ War’ (1974) and ‘The Sound of the Dragon’s Feet’ (1980).
She was awarded the National Award for Children’s Literature (Greece) in 1992.
Translator John Thornley
John is a radio producer and arts consultant who has translated several books and plays.