Creating Understanding Around Difference: Review of Wink by Rob Harrell

Creating Understanding Around Difference: Review of Wink by Rob Harrell

Rob Harrell’s semi-autobiographical middle grade novel is thought-provoking and will challenge young readers. It’s a heart-warming story about vulnerability, survival and dealing with a terrifying diagnosis.

Twelve-year-old Ross Maloy just wants to be a normal seventh grader but that’s not on the cards. After discovering an alarming lump above his eye, his life has been a series of appointments, tests and then a devastating diagnosis. Ross has a rare form of cancer and faces surgery and radiation therapy that may or may not save his vision or his life.

His best friend Abby is sticking by him, but the third member of their group Isaac, has gone silent and is never around. He’s just one of the many kids who don’t seem to know how to react to Ross. When he’s forced to wear a hat to protect his skin, has a goopy eye and starts to lose his hair kids begin to give him a wide berth. The lowest point is when he is dubbed ‘Cancer Boy’ and is the subject of some cruel memes.

Yet, despite all of this, there’s lots of support for Ross and new friends are made in unusual circumstances. Ross always manages to find enough hope to carry on and continuously looks to the bright or funny side of things – there are moments of course.

While the story is deeply moving, Harrell includes humorous cartoon panels of hero BatPig who similarly deals with treatments, missing his mum and friendships issues – just in a very superhero style way!

Rob Harrell is quite an amazing illustrator who wrote and drew the syndicated daily comic strip Big Top through 2007 and currently creates the long-running strip [email protected] He has worked with some amazing clients Mad and Time, Inc.

There are also some wonderful characters throughout that help Ross on his journey; Jimmy the potentially misunderstood school bully, Frank the radiation technician/musician and Jerry the wise fellow patient.

Wink has been compared to R. J. Palacio’s Wonder and inspiring books like these are perfect conversation starters that can grow children’s empathy and create understanding around difference. Author Karen Foxlee has declared Wink ‘Completely uplifting, deeply moving and brilliantly funny in just the right amounts’. If your young reader (or you for that matter) enjoyed her book Lenny’s Book of Everything then Wink would be perfect for their next read.






Publisher details

Rob Harrell
Children’s Fiction
10 March, 2020


Surviving school with one eye open.Ross Maloy just wants to fit inBut after he is diagnosed with a rare eye cancer in Year Seven, he suddenly becomes the 'cancer kid' of his school.Now he has to deal with weird hats, a squinty eye and - hardest of all - disappearing friends, social media bullies, and the threat of losing his eyesight ... or worse.Based on Rob Harrell's real-life experiences, and packed with his cartoons and illustrations, this is a heartbreaking and hilarious story of survival, and of finding the music, magic and laughter in all of life's weirdness.
Rob Harrell
About the author

Rob Harrell

Rob Harrell is the author-illustrator of the highly praised graphic novels Monster on the Hill and the illustrated book series The Life of Zarf. His fifth book, Wink, is a fictional story drawn from his own experiences as a child after being diagnosed with a rare eye cancer.Author photo by Amber Harrell

Books by Rob Harrell


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  1. Jaki says:

    What age is this best for?