The Power of One: Young Reader's Condensed Edition
Delacorte, 2005 (1989)
Read an Excerpt
Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke
received a sweatshirt as a holiday gift, appliqued with a woman sitting surrounded by piles of books, and the statement '
There is no such thing as too many books.
' Hear! Hear! But sometimes a magnificent read is missed, at least for a while.
The Power of One
was such a book for me, one of the best I have ever read. Though a
young reader's condensed edition
, I recommend it to adults as well. It opens in 1939 Transvaal, South Africa, with the terror of Hitler '
a shadow across the land
'. It is also forty years after the Boer War between the Dutch and English, with hatred still abiding as well as the '
seeds of apartheid
he story is narrated by
- a name assigned by bullies at his boarding school. He was sent to live there at age five, leaving his granpa's chicken farm. His mother was hospitalized with a nervous breakdown, and he was nurtured by his beloved Zulu Nanny. The permanent name he chooses is
. At the end of the school's second term, Peekay travels by train to the town of Barberton. On the first leg of the trip, his guardian is Hoppie Groenewald, a welterweight champion boxer. This first exposure to the sport of boxing instills in him the drive to become welterweight champion. Peekay has a brilliant mind and a broad heart, and he comes to know the meaning of hatred.
eekay meets Professor '
' Von Vollensteen, once a famed pianist, who teaches him music. When Doc is falsely accused and arrested as an
enemy of the state
, Peekay, a local librarian, and a lawyer fight to save him. Peekay wins visitation rights to his friend in prison, leading him into the boxing world again. Kafir Geel Piet warns him, '
Small baas, if I teach you these things a street fighter knows, you will lose your speed and caution and when you lose your caution you will lose your skill.
' Peekay muses, '
Mix-the-head with-the-heart you're-ahead from-the-start ... It was becoming the plan I Peekay would follow for the remainder of my life; it was to become the secret ingredient in the power of one
The Power of One
will experience prejudice and hatred, happiness and sadness, loyalty, friendship, and love. The story has great depth and meaning. The ending is a majestic blend of humanity, the boxing sport, music, words, and
the power of one
. Courtenay writes in his author's notes, '
never stop reading ... a book is just about the best friend a person can have
' - a notion that rates the professor's favorite word, '
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