Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid

Published: 9th April 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Harry N. Abrams
Pages: 224
Format: Paperback
Genre: Junior Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★ – 4 Stars

Hi my name is Rowley Jefferson and this is my book. Now I have a diary just like my friend Greg… 

Rowley’s best friend Greg Heffley has chronicled his middle-school years in thirteen Diary of a Wimpy Kid journals. Now it’s Rowley’s turn to give his side of the story.

But Rowley has agreed to tell Greg’s story along the way, too. (After all, Grey says one day he will be rich and famous and the world will need to know how he managed it).

But Rowley’s stories about Greg might not be quite what his friend had in mind . . .

I do not feel bad judging Greg having only read 2 books out of 12. I started the third and could not finish it because he annoyed me so much. Kinney made no secrets in those books about Greg consciously doing bad things and being an awful friend by tricking Rowley, blaming Rowley, and bullying him. This book flips those others on its head as it shows what Greg is like on the other side. For those at the receiving end of his schemes and jokes.

This may be from Rowley’s point of view but it still points out how mean Greg is and how he takes advantage of Rowley’s kind nature. It actually made me sad to see how Rowley is treated. He puts up with Greg and still sees him as a best friend. Seeing Greg’s actions on Rowley are an entirely different thing than seeing Rowley react to those actions, I wasn’t angry I was heartbroken.

The language Kinney uses is ideal because it uses feelings kids can relate to and the situations he describes were so familiar: Rowley trying to work on homework and having Greg interrupt him and distract him; Rowley expressing his feelings of wanting to do well in school and admits hating having Greg try to derail that; even just having Rowley try to enjoy the things he likes without Greg coming and stealing them or ruining them. The fact Rowley actually hides in his house to escape Greg is a fantastic example of how much of a terrible kid this is.

I am excited that kids will get to see the other side of Greg’s antics and realise how much of a toxic and abusive kid he is. I hope it sparks conversations about bullying and being taken advantage of, and what a real friend would do. One fantastic thing is that Rowley’s parents also tell him he needs to find a new friend. Multiple times. Even Greg’s mum helps Rowley and makes Greg apologise for his behaviour.

Rowley is a sweet kid. He is a kid who hasn’t got a lot of friends and he has been Greg’s friend for so long he can’t see him not being there. Rowley is not the stupid kid Greg makes him out to be, he is naïve, he is sweet, but he also pities Greg which I found intriguing.

I have made it no secret my dislike for Greg in the other books but I am thrilled that Kinney has made this move because it shines a spotlight on Greg’s behaviour, no hiding behind jokes and fun boyish antics, this story takes Greg out from being portrayed as a victim and a poor kid who is hard done by the world. This shows him to be a bully and a manipulative little brat who every adult around him can see he is a mean person.

The reviews I’ve seen either praise this book or shame it. Those who dislike it often say they didn’t like how Greg was portrayed. They are a variation of “Rowley just points out how awful Greg is! I know he was naughty but the books were funny so it was ok”. Maybe you just needed to have been bullied to see what the effect of those actions really are. But Greg was funny so what did it matter?

You can purchase What If? via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

George by Alex Gino

Published: 25th August 2015Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Scholastic Press
Pages: 208
Format: Paperback
Genre: Junior Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★   ★ – 5 Stars

BE WHO YOU ARE. When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she’s not a boy. She knows she’s a girl.

George thinks she’ll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte’s Web. George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can’t even try out for the part… because she’s a boy.

With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte—but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.

I loved George from the get go. At ten years old, George knows who she is and she is tired of living as a boy like others see her. While she doesn’t feel she can do much about it just yet, she can dream. She is honest to herself and she keeps a very big secret but tries to not let it get her down. Gino gets us into George’s mind early on and we see how she sees herself and how she wants to express her true self to the world. She came across as every bit a ten year old, Gino doesn’t try to age her, but they do explore these feelings and thoughts George is having and how she struggles to be the person other people want her to be.

Gino pushes how gendered George’s life is and how she is always forced into situations that make her uncomfortable. The other explanation is that US school are so gender separated which is weird in itself. Either way, it helps to express how George is feeling and the decisions she has to make every day. The focal point of Charlotte’s Web and the play was divine and seeing George draw courage and comfort from Charlotte sometimes breaks your heart.

One of the important truths that Gino explores is that even the nicest parents may not be understanding. While George’s mother doesn’t reject her, she isn’t entirely accepting either. On the other hand I absolutely adored George’s older brother Scott. There is something great about older brother/younger sibling relationships which are so heartfelt, even if those moments are few. Kelly is also an incredible friend and accepting and supportive but not in an over the top or token way. She demonstrates how easily kids accept things, it is the adults who often need more convincing.

It was beautiful to see George and her relationship with Kelly develop even further during the lead up to the play and I loved George for her devotion and her bravery. This is a great message for everyone but especially for kids that anything is possible and while there may be some barriers, all you can do is try. I was expecting the play to be the final moment of George’s story but Gino takes it a bit further and doing so adds an extra element which in some ways may even more important.

This is such an significant book and Gino has done a fantastic job at showing the innocence and the maturity of young transgender kids and there is so much to learn from this story. Overall this is an uplifting story and seeing George’s personal development through the story makes your heart soar.

You can purchase George via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Piggy by Trevor Lai

Published: 20th December 2016Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Illustrator: Trevor Lai
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

An irresistibly adorable debut about a lonely little piglet who makes his first friend–perfect for anyone who has felt the joy of new friendships.

Piggy loves books so much that he never has time for friends. But his favourite story has always been about two friends and the special times they share together.

One day, Piggy sees a girl reading alone. And he wonders, perhaps, if they could be best friends? Try as Piggy might–in increasingly spectacular ways–the girl just doesn’t notice him. Will Piggy ever be able to tell her how he truly feels?

She was busy reading her book. So Piggy decided to get her attention” Oh no Piggy. She’s busy, don’t interrupt her!

I am a bit confused by the story. Piggy loves to read and wants to save his last book so he goes out and plays instead. There he stumbles across a potential friend. Because he has read so much he has never had a friend and then tries to get the attention of this new person.

Instead of leaving the cat to read peacefully by herself, Piggy tries to get her attention. After failing, he offers to share his book with her which works. Then somehow, unexplainably he realises she can’t see and gives her glasses and they read together.

It is a cute story about sharing and finding friends with common interests but there were too many things unexplained. How this cat could be so into her book if she couldn’t read? Why Piggy pestered her while she was reading in the first place.

Lai’s illustrations are beyond adorable though. I love Piggy’s design and the bright bold colours catch your eye. The formatting was well planned and favours the story. I picked this book up because Piggy looked so sweet on the cover, and while the message is cute, the logistics of it are a bit off.

You can purchase Piggy via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Long Lost Review: Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne

Long Lost Reviews is a monthly meme created by Ally over at Ally’s Appraisals which is posted on the second Thursday of every month. The aim is to start tackling your review backlog. Whether it’s an in-depth analysis of how it affected your life, one sentence stating that you only remember the ending, or that you have no recollection of reading the book at all. 

Published: 1968Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Lancer Books
Pages: 287
Format: Paperback
Genre: Classic/Adventure
★   ★  ★  ★ – 4 Stars

Phileas Fogg rashly bets fellow members of the Reform Club £20,000 that he can travel around the entire globe in just eighty days, and he is determined not to lose. Breaking the well-established routine of his daily life, the reserved Englishman immediately sets off for Dover, accompanied by his hot-blooded French manservant, Passepartout. Travelling by train, steamship, sailboat, sledge, and even elephant, they must overcome storms, kidnappings, natural disasters, Sioux attacks, and the dogged Inspector Fix of Scotland Yard to win the extraordinary wager.

This is a classic story and one that I enjoyed a lot. I won’t say it isn’t without its problems, but there is a good adventure story that is fascinating to read about. I finally read this a couple years ago. I knew this story existed, seen it referenced, I had also seen the Mickey Mouse version of it as a kid and loved it. Naturally the book has more in it than the 10 minute short, but the essential story was the same.

Being written more than a century ago of course some consideration must be given for the writing style and the racial slurs, but I think it is important to both acknowledge that they are bad, but also know the time in which the story is written to understand their use. The Britishness of the characters is otherwise charming and proper and it is a delight to travel with these characters, especially as you get to see various parts of the world at the same time, even if it is only briefly. Without actually looking it up, I am interested to know how Verne knew about these routes/places. Whether it was based on some research or he made it up. I have seen some criticism saying he doesn’t go to Australia or Africa (he does go to Egypt), but the point is to go around the world, not visit every continent/country.

Passepartout was a great character. He was entertaining and long suffering. Phileas Fogg and Inspector Fix are also great characters. Aside from the wager I am trying remember if there was any additional plot. The drama comes from the outrageous of the bet, the suspense if they will reach their ports and meet their trains on time, not to mention any interruptions.

I recall this being an interesting read. It is engaging and there is intrigue as they meet their various modes of transport. One thing that I was waiting for was the hot air balloon. I was under the impression that at some point he ends up on a balloon which is not the case, not sure how that came to be common belief. One thing I love are stories that use technicalities and word play to trick and outwit and I love that this uses that to a degree. Depending how much people know about the story I won’t go into it, but there are some great surprises.

There’s something fulfilling about reading the story and then seeing the interpretation on screen. I think the charm remains with the book over the movies, there’s a seriousness but a whimsy about it that never crosses over to the farcical which a few movies have. Definitely give it a go if you want some good classic literature that isn’t boring.

 

 

A Must for Book and Library Lovers

I’m here today to tell you about a fantastic extension for Chrome and Firefox that will not only help utilise your libraries but might help you save money on buying books. Late in 2017 I discovered Library Extension, a brilliant little addition to your browser that allows you to see books held in your local libraries while you browse the internet.

When I first found this extension my library wasn’t supported but they are always looking for new libraries to add so I filled out the feedback form, provided the details for my library then all I had to do was sit back and wait. To be honest I had to wait 17 months but I received an email a few months ago saying it had now been included. Now, I’m not saying it will take a year to include your own library if you are not one of the 4000 included, whether it took longer because I’m in Australia or some other reason I don’t know. According to their FAQ most libraries can be added in a few days.

With the extension it will show me if a book I am looking up is held in my library, it will also tell me how many copies they have and how many of those are available (this also covers music and audiobooks as well). If something is on the catalogue all I have to do is click View and I’m sent straight to my library’s online catalogue. Also, if your library has Overdrive as an ebook service you can also connect it to that and see what ebooks are available through your library.

I love this extension so much. I can browse Goodreads and see if the book I want is actually sitting on my library shelf. One extra advantage is if you are a member of multiple libraries, you can connect all of them and the extension will show you which branches have what. The websites I have seen it work for are Goodreads, Booktopia, Book Depository, and Amazon (both US and Australian). There is a list of full sites I believe it will work on on the website.

The site boasts that this will save you time and money and I cannot agree more. Getting a chance to read a book for free before deciding whether to buy it is wonderful, not to mention it gets you out there supporting your local library (as a librarian I have to add that in). Practicality-wise, there is also the benefit of having the information right on my browser which saves me opening up my library catalogue or remembering to look it up later. Plus, you do not have to register, sign in, join, or pay. You simply add the extension like you would any other and bam! Results.

My own experience is one of having my library added into the system so once I got the email telling me they’d included it, I had to wait about 12 hours for the full catalogue to come across and for my results to work correctly. I don’t know if this is for each installation but even so, it’s incredibly quick. The extension also updates every few hours so you’re being presented with the most up to date information.

The success rate is fairly high in my limited experience. A few times it has said there are no copies of a book despite me knowing for a fact there is but I’m not sure if that is connected to some issue with metadata, or normal glitches that comes from being still relatively new for my library. The extension itself is a few years old, but having only found it a couple years ago and only gotten a chance to use it this year I am keen to reap the benefits from having that happy little box on my screen that tells me all the great books I can borrow with a click of a button.

Everyone should download this if they’re able. It is a great way to utilise your local library (again, job requirement to add that in there) and it still blows my mind that I can so easily see what my library holds.

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