Romany Johnny Joe – Book Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Romany Johnny Joe
by Hilda Brazil
Published by Athena Press Ltd (8 Jun 2009)
ISBN: 978-1-84748-556-4
Price: £5.99/$9.95
56 paperback, 24.2 x 18.4 x 0.8 cm

While Gypsies may have often featured in children’s books, and all too often either as romanticized characters or as villains, such books are seldom ever written by them.

Hilda Brazil, however, a Romany woman, has put her pen to paper, or better fingers to the keyboard, and the result is a very lovely story and book indeed.

Her book “Romany Johnny Joe” tells how the resident toads and frogs of Toadville are preparing themselves for a showdown as current conker Romany Johnny Joe defends his title. But this year he must face the mayor of Toadville and very large toad indeed, Sir Burty Marshland.

A very cute story written by a Romany woman, Hilda Brazil, suitable for children from age five having it read to to older children reading it for themselves. And I am sure parents will fall in live with it too. I certainly have.

It will soon be obvious who everyone it; the toads are the Gohja and the frogs are the Gypsy People and the proud high and mighty Gohja mayor gets his comeuppance being beaten by the little frog in the form of Romany Johnny Joe, the bare knuckle conker champion.

This is a charming story where the underdog wins against all the odds. Designed for children from about six to ten, it will definitely appeal to all those who feel that sometimes the dice is loaded against them, and not just children, of that I am sure.

“Romany Johnny Joe” is a book that has been written by a real Romany Gypsy in the ancient Gypsy art of storytelling, with references to a passing rural life and traditions. It gently points to the errors of prejudice and discrimination. It would be valuable in primary schools that have Gypsy and Traveler children as well as those that do not.

The book is perfect for reading out loud, and I am sure that “Romany Johnny Joe” will soon become a bedtime favorite, with each reading bringing something new. “Romany Johnny Joe” is a nice story with a real feel good factor and a great moral.

Hilda works for Surrey County Council’s youth justice service and is dedicated to challenging the prejudice young Gypsies and Travelers face. Speaking to Traveller's Times Hilda said: “I didn’t have a great education myself,” she says, “but that doesn’t mean I haven’t got a great imagination. With the help of a computer and spell checker I’ve proven that anybody can produce a book.”

Published by Athena Press, the book is a wise tale of how an underdog can take on a more powerful opponent. Packed with illustrations that children can color in, it’s proving a hit with parents from Britain to Australia on internet book site

You can buy it here:

This book will also lay prejudices to rest, I hope, that Gypsies do not work – especially not for an employer and in government service – and that they cannot write books and such.

Copyright © 2010