It’s time for another round of author appreciation. Today, I’ll be talking about the two authors whose books I adored when I was nine years old, in Year 4. The title of this post will make sense later on. First up:
Odo Hirsch is the pen name of David Kausman, an Australia author of children’s books. He was born in Melbourne, where he trained to be a doctor, but moved to London, where he currently lives.
After working as a doctor in both Melbourne and London, he joined Amnesty International, where he reported on torture victims and examined hospital conditions in Eastern Europe. After doing a master’s degree in political thought at Cambridge University, he joined McKinsey Consulting in 1997. This was when his first novel for children, Antonio S and the Mystery of Theodore Guzman, was published. His other books include Bartlett and the Ice Voyage, which won the Blue Peter Book Award. His novels have been shortlisted many times for the Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards.
Year 4 was such a vivid year. Of all the years in Primary School, it’s probably the one I remember the most and that was in part due to this man and the memories of his series, Hazel Green. Boy, I loved this series so much and revisiting the memories associated with these books only confirms that I still do. It showed me, for the first time, what it meant for a book to “come alive”.
Summary of the first book >
Hazel Green is a free spirit – independent, mischievous and charming. She lives on the 12th floor of the grand old Moodey Building. Once a year, on Frogg Day, the whole city celebrates with a fabulous parade, and Hazel is determined that the children of her building will join in. But some of the grown-ups want to keep them out – especially troublesome Hazel. And then Hazel is falsely accused of stealing. But nothing troubles Hazel for long. With her humour and resourcefulness – and unexpected help from a reclusive boy called the Yak – she wins everyone around.
His writing was so vivid that, to this day, I still remember the actual smells, sounds and tastes I experienced while reading these books. Looking at the cover, the first thing that comes to my mind is doughnuts. Hazel Green loved pastries and all four books never go without descriptions of eclairs and croissants and tarts and a range of other baked goods because the local baker would always offer her free samples. I remember having cravings for sweet things every time I read these books, and in those cravings, I discovered the existence of Krispy Kreme. It was like the Holy Grail of my childhood. (By extension, I blame that for my addiction to nutella.)
It was also the first time I was exposed to a complex character. Hazel Green is humorous, mischievous and smart, and while she’s young, she also possess an adult-like wisdom. Finishing the books was a strange experience because underneath that post-read joy and excitement was a sense of solemnity. I didn’t understand it then, but now I see it as my younger-self learning something about the Real World, through Hazel. In my search for summaries and information to put in this post, I also found a short excerpt that brought a flood of memories about her:
“Sometimes you are really terrible, Hazel Green.”
Good, thought Hazel. Everyone should be terrible sometimes.
I mean, what a character! She really left an impression on me. I need to revisit these books again and maybe have a cry.
Thank you, Mr. Hirsch, for a vivid childhood, for the life-lessons I learned without realising it, for engaging my senses. Though I guess I should also blame you for my sugar addiction…