52 Mondays, by Anna Ciddor, is a fictionalised account of the author’s childhood in 1960s Australia. This is about as gentle and inoffensive a book as you could hope for, one that succeeds in pleasantly evoking the sights, sounds and smells of the era while offering the reader insight into Australia’s Jewish community. The problem is that, as a children’s book, it’s just not that interesting.
It’s difficult to shake the feeling that 52 Mondays would be better served as an outright autobiography than a book for children. The pace is plodding, and the stakes extremely mild. The book is fairly plotless, more comprised of a collection of vignettes, held together by young Anna’s search for an antique doll. It also feels very self-indulgent of its own nostalgic premise, as though it was written for adults with a similar nostalgia to Ciddor’s, using what I would call kiddie language to mask that fact. I can’t envision many middle-grade readers being captivated by the content of these pages.
It’s a shame because the foundation for a good memoir is there. Ultimately, 52 Mondays feels mismatched with a middle-grade readership. Ciddor’s nostalgia is affectionate and warm, but nostalgia in an intimate, personal emotion. Strip that away, and there’s not a whole lot to get readers interested in the setting, which essentially defines the novel.