Reviewed by Jo Bowers
The Kiosk is a story about Olga, who lives in her kiosk, serving, chatting and looking after all her regular customers: the man with the crazy dog who buys his newspaper; the runner who buys a bottle of water; a woman who likes fishing, cats and politics; the tourists who can’t find their way and more. Once she closes the hatch for the night Olga stays stuck in her kiosk dreaming about the faraway places and sunsets in the magazines she sells. One day, after a series of unfortunate events, Olga finds herself on a surprising journey in her kiosk, leading her to the freedom she craves with the sunset views she dreamt of.
The hardcover of the book is a very simple and ingenious cutout window of the hatch for the kiosk. It is very tempting to put your own head in the cut out for the kiosk and pretend to be a kiosk seller (yes, I did!) and a big cardboard box is asking to be turned into one in the classroom too! Open the cover and you are in the world where Olga lives, inside the tiny kiosk, painted in bright colours, filled with magazines and snacks. Through both the illustrations and text we see in a subtle way, without judging, how Olga has grown obese while working at the kiosk and so stuck inside.
This is a book to read aloud right across the primary age range. It offers great opportunities to ask questions, develop imaginative thinking, promote rich discussion and follow-on creative writing and art. Just a few starters for discussion and enquiry that could also lead to a writing or art-based response could be: What faraway places would you like to visit? Where do you think Olga’s regular customers live? What are their lives like? What would you sell in your kiosk and why? When starting The Kiosk, which started life as a short animation (I highly recommend watching it too) Anete Melece’s starting point was questioning about the character of Olga: Why is she stuck there? What does she want? Creating a character wall could lead to good discussion, understanding and empathy of Olga’s situation.
This book surprised me and made me smile as much as it made me think. It is an original and uplifting story about being stuck, discovering freedom and in the words of the author, is about finding a way to “start a journey to your happy place exactly as you are.”