Ugly (younger readers) by Robert Hoge. Publisher: Lothian Children’s Books/Hachette Australia. RRP paperback $16.99. E-book $10.99.
Ugly (younger readers) by Robert Hoge. Publisher: Lothian Children’s Books/Hachette Australia. RRP paperback $16.99. E-book $10.99. PHOTOS CONTRIBUTED

A book on being ugly - for kids

OUR society places enormous importance on appearance. How does that work if you're a normal, intelligent kid who's deformed from birth and as ugly as sin?

Here Queenslander Robert Hoge has reworked his powerful 2013 memoir Ugly for younger readers - and it's a great read for anyone.

The honesty is painful, from the days after his birth, when his mother wished he would "go away or die or something", to his acceptance by the family and her eventual passionate support for him.

Most young readers will relate to the author's experiences at school - which read like an awful, extreme version of the experiences of any child who doesn't fit in.

We learn about his making friends, his imaginative play and the inevitable, thoughtless cruelty of children - and of adults - and of how even sympathy can be frustrating.

There's the moment when a teacher reads his class passages from The Lord of the Rings and opens young Robert's mind to the idea of being a writer himself.

Hoge tells of the multiple operations he endured, including the removal of his legs and the creation of a nose from one of his toes.

We learn of his first childhood love (it didn't go well).

A favourite section is where he counts down his top 10 insults, with ratings for hurt factor, laugh factor and how he got over it.

We learn how sports-keen Robert finally finds one he can excel at.

And with him, we confront the decision: does he go through with the final, risky operation to make him look more "normal"?

The book is a moving, non-sentimental lesson in self-acceptance, personal strength and endurance, told frankly, simply and with easy humour.


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