When Willow Farrington first meets Isaac Silberstein she doesn’t know what to expect. He’s a gnome-like old man who survived a World War II concentration camp, and she’s an almost-14-year-old who’s just back at school after a four-month stay in hospital with an eating disorder. He’s written a recipe and gardening book, and she has to do a talk on it for school.
Birthdays, custard, book reports, gardens, families, friendship and fun all combine in this contemporary, witty and moving book.
A fresh and uplifting novel based on a true story.
Rebecca Bloomer’s Willow Farrington Bites back is a delightful book offering an honest insight into the life of a girl who has anorexia. Willow is an intelligent, witty and sensitive girl who is full of charisma. You are drawn into Willow’s personal account of her family, school, inner life and her relationship with her eating issues. When Willow meets a Jewish man from a school project named Izzy, who survived starvation in concentration camps, a bond is made, a friendship forged and we are reminded that despite the negative aspects of human history and condition, what is important is human triumph, connection, understanding, humour, love, family, friendship and a good food fight!
– Desi Achilleos, Eating Disorders Association
Rebecca Bloomer is an English/Biology teacher by trade. Following thirteen years of teaching in Australian and international schools, across all levels of primary, secondary and tertiary education, wherein texts were analysed, deconstructed and critiqued, she’s decided to take part in the creation process instead!
Rebecca began her foray into writing with a pseudonym (Rebecca Williams) and a romance. Five romances, excellent reviews, a couple of milestones and awards dinners later, she decided to try a different audience.
Mae-be Roses was born with great difficulty via the self-publishing process, as many people worried about appearing to ‘promote’ teen parenthood. Mae-be is now in schools across Australia, being promoted by the Core Of Life. According to AWE (Australian Women Educators), she is now “a welcome addition to young adult bookshelves...”
Now, with Willow Farrington Bites Back,Rebecca continues to challenge current social paradigms. Willow Farrington Bites Back is the first book in a series about ‘redefining normal’. Rebecca hopes you’ll join her on the journey.
People ask me lots of questions lately.
“Willow, are you nuts?”
“Did you want to die, Willow?”
“What made you do that to yourself, Willow? What made you start?”
“Willow, why didn’t you just stop?”
Surprisingly, no-one asks, “Willow, would you like us all to just shut up and go away?” That is a question I could answer. The answer would be ‘Yes!’ Yes because I wish they’d all stop asking the same questions. Yes because I wish just one person would ask and then report back to all the others. After a while, questions become quite monotonous you know.
My name is Willow. There’s another thing I can’t figure out. How come I got a name like Willow? A name that implies a long, lean, willowy figure, when I’m five foot one and a half tall and not the least bit long. Seems unjust doesn’t it? And maybe that’s how it all started. Maybe misnaming someone can have unknowable results.
Today I am at school. I’ve been in hospital for four months, so school is a good thing for me.
That’s right, I stopped eating. And I do know why. I just don’t feel like broadcasting. Besides, most of my reasons, all the answers to all their questions, are things people don’t want to hear.
So now I’m done ‘getting better’, as my mother puts it. I’m back at school. I have an eating schedule and a school counsellor to sit with me when I eat. Not exactly the way to make friends and influence people, but it’s a start and I will do anything not to go back to hospital.
Better than being out of hospital is that my teacher, Miss D, is taking us on an excursion to the library. I love libraries. I love books even. All those stories, all those worlds, all those words, just waiting to be discovered, read and known. Of course there are bad books, just like there are bad people. I like fantasy and science fiction novels. I like to get away from reality when I read. I have enough reality of my own, I don’t need to read somebody else’s. Real life is so boring and heavy, you know?
Miss D, our teacher, stands in the doorway to the library and talks to us. We’re supposed to be in two straight lines but we’re not. We’re more of a cluster than a line but Miss D continues anyway.
“You can speak, but only quietly. You will not jump, yell or throw yourselves around. You will respect people’s right to peace and quiet, and you will perform in a manner that makes me proud. Are we all clear?”
Of course she isn’t arching her eyebrow at me. I’m a good student. Excellent even. Two times recipient of the School Spirit Award. Yep, that’s me. Clever and nuts. So in true nerd fashion, I nod at Miss D to let her know that I understand her completely.
Miss D steps back and allows us in. As I walk past her, I feel her hand squeeze my shoulder gently. She winks at me quickly and too soon, I am past her.
When we get inside the library, there is a collective gasp of appreciation. Miss D has a habit of pulling off miracles. And turning Bicton’s town library into a party location takes a serious miracle. There are streamers and balloons and people everywhere. In fact there are more people inside the library than I believed Bicton actually housed. They’ve obviously been imported as guests for this book party. In addition to the people, there is also the mandatory table of food. Iced biscuits gleaming pink. Chocolate cake with icing that has just started to soften, even in the air-conditioning. Sausage rolls and party pies. Buckets of cordial and thermos flasks of coffee.
I swallow. More of a worried gulp, actually.
My best friend Milly appears beside me. Her red hair and freckles are extra bright under the fluorescent light.
“Don’t worry.” She smiles like she’s read my mind.
Of course, she has pretty much read my mind. Milly’s face is almost permanently set on ‘happy’ and she has big wide eyes that lead unwitting victims to believe she’s as vacant as the school church on Friday night. But Milly is everyone’s favourite surprise package. She has heaps more going on inside her red head than even I can believe. For one thing, she is always thinking.
“They never really want students to eat. We’re supposed to be polite and let the grown-ups eat first. Manners and all. Most of these oldies look half starved.” She motions to all the people milling about in the library chatting. They’re not all old, in fact they’re not all adults, but she makes a good point and feels the need to continue with it. “So unless you want to fight for your crumbs, there’s nothing for you to worry about.”
“I know. I’m not worried. I’m all good.” Good but a bit thick, I hadn’t thought of any of that stuff. I was so busy panicking I hadn’t stopped to think that no-one would force feed me in a library. Only in hospitals can a person be force fed. Food can still do that to me. It freaks me out and turns me into an idiot and stops me from thinking clearly. I need my schedule. It keeps me normal, kind of…
Milly nods. “Good. I’m glad you’re good.”
Meanwhile, poor Miss D is trying to explain the rules. I wouldn’t be a teacher for anything. Nobody ever listens. But Miss D keeps trying and eventually enough students are looking at her that she thinks we’re paying attention.