Walker Books Australia (2013)
ISBN 978 1 922077 29 5 (pbk.)
Reviewed by Pearl Maya
Welcome to the magical world of William Roland – a modern day Pollyanna if there ever was one. William and his new friend Rebecca are on a challenge to brighten the lives of their neighbors with the innocence and passion that only childhood can bring.
William is an entertaining and genuine character. His infection for life is contagious. He regards his quirks as normal – and everyone else appears to go along with it.
He has a love of words and that includes choosing a new name for himself each day – “Never leave home without choosing a name (nameless missions fail)” – so while one day he may be Nailah Pepen – “The first was Arabic for successful and the second, German for petitioner” – the next he could be Shakir Nantan – “These were his Arabic and Aapche names for thankful spokesperson.” Apart from his schoolteacher, his community goes along with him.
He has a charm and positivity that is undeniable: “Slipping messages into letterboxes wasn’t as fun or as personal as slapping (stick notes with a rainbow of inviting words) onto each apartment door …. so that is what they did”.
He doesn’t see disability or disadvantage. He is initially entranced by Rebecca because she walks like a pony: “Half of her anyway. Her left knee lifted as those a puppeteer had pulled a string tied to it. Then her foot kicked out before she placed it down again.” He is somewhat disappointed to discover her other leg was normal.
He takes her quirk of forming a list of who would come to her funeral as a challenge to fill the lists of everyone in his neighborhood.
When confronted by people different to him, like the older, nearly deaf Crispin, or the shut-in Mrs Stavros he just realises he needs to try different ways to engage
Having said all of that, William is believable. His naivety isn’t fake, it is the innocence of childhood untainted by prejudice, a time when all things are possible.
View from the 32nd Floor is a charming book that should be enjoyed by younger and older readers alike – and there are a number of adults that would also benefit from sharing some time with William.