Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Book Review: 'What Happened to Stephan?' by Haifa Swarka

What Happened to Stephan?: Adventure filled with Mystery for children 9-12 by [SWARKA, HAIFA]
‘What is happening to me? Who is this in the mirror? Is this who I am? Why do 
I look like this?”

Author Haifa Swarka makes a fine publishing debut with a solid adventure story for youngsters that carries several fine lessons about personal interactions such as bullying and the way we all with ‘differences.’ The few illustrations are by Charlotte Shama.

Haifa has a fine manner of opening an adventure with a solid spot of reality in a story that deals with oddities. ‘One morning in that second-floor apartment, a boy named Stephan woke up in his room. In fact, he used to be a boy before he woke up, because when he got up from his bed, he was completely different from all the other boys. Stephan discovered this when he took a few steps and looked at the mirror hanging on one of the walls in his room. He was very frightened. So much so that he almost lost his mind. He screamed and called for help, but a scary voice came out of his mouth. It resembled a roar or a hum. The voice did not sound like a human voice! His face was thick with hair and his eyes were big and red. Where was his mouth? He had two large jaws, and hanging from his upper jaw were two sharp and frightening fangs.’

And so we are off on a fantasy tale. Stephan Naser awakens as a monster, facing his incredulous parents, shocking the media, his classmates in school, the social media videos taken of him, and gradually we meet Stephan’s sister and her puppy and other aspects of the influence of Stephan’s strange ‘programmed appearance.’

This is a fine adventure about the manner in which youngsters deal with bullying. The language is very contemporary, sharing all the current ‘tools’ that are so prominent in our lives. Haifa Swarka impresses as a writer who cares not only about tales for teenagers but also about social issues that help youngsters see the world through different eyes. Grady Harp, January 19

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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