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

The Frankenstein Adventures by Bil Richardson

Published: 3rd October 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Creator Studios
Pages: 136
Format: ebook
Genre: Fantasy/Adventure
★   ★   ★   ★ – 4 Stars

This is the story of Frankenstein told from the vantage point of Igor, the bumbling, brave boy who will risk everything to save his master’s flawed creation. Hilarious and heart-warming – this is a book that will make you stand up and cheer one minute and fall down laughing the next. Igor’s heart is in the right place even though parts of his body aren’t. He is a loveable, lopsided fellow who has more courage and strength than any of the adults who look down on him. When things go wrong with his boss’s “experiment,” Igor sees it as his duty to save the day – even though most days he is the one who needs saving. Our hilarious hero has to overcome enormous odds on his mission to rescue the most important achievement in human history – the creation of life. Follow Igor on his amazing adventure to prove that he is more than just a not-so-pretty face.

Note: I was provided with a copy of this book by the author for review.

The blurb is slightly misleading, and while there is truth that Igor does set out the save his master’s creation, the story is not entirely his as the third person perspective offers insight into many different characters, new and old. While it is a retelling of the traditional Frankenstein story, Richardson takes it further and it becomes a story about family, friendship, and discovering the monsters of the world are not the most obvious.

The writing is straightforward but weave a detailed and in-depth story. The tone is one kids will love; Igor and the other characters are funny, there’s snark and drama and puns, and seeing the domestic side of Frankenstein brings in all the scary, gross, fun kids will love. Where Richardson shines is that while it is light-hearted and silly, there is also heart and warmth.

The first part of the narrative retells the original story with a few extra twists and characters to get to know. We follow Frankenstein’s monster as he flees the castle, we see locals as they hunt after him, and we follow the angst of Igor and his master as they work out what to do. From there we see the story continues through the eyes of various characters as the story moves into one of friendship, jealously, and drama.

The tone is suitable for the intended age group but there is no hiding from the scientific methods or descriptions either. We know Frank is burned, with scars and the traditional story is but a lot of the elements are there about violence too. The characters are sweet and endearing once the story gets going and you see the emotion and their misguided goodness. The violent side is restrained but regular but you see the good versus evil in each altercation and know who the bad guys are.

Richardson demonstrates that Frank (as he’s named himself) is not the real monster, nor is Frankenstein either. There are messages in there about kindness and being a friend and how monsters are made by people and what blind judgement can do. There is also a fantastic message about what makes a family. A great story for kids to enjoy where they can experience the Frankenstein story without delving right into Shelley’s horror masterpiece.

You can purchase The Frankenstein Adventures via the following

Amazon | Amazon Aust

Long Lost Reviews: Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

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: 1st July 1996Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 HarperTrophy
Pages: 298
Format: Paperback
Genre: Junior Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Harriet M. Welsch is determined to grow up and be a famous author. In the meantime, she practices by following a regular spy route each day and writing down everything she sees in her secret notebook.

Then one morning, Harriet’s life is turned upside down. Her classmates find her spy notebook and read it out loud! Harriet’s in big trouble. The other sixth-graders are stealing her tomato sandwiches, forming a spy-catcher club, and writing notes of their own — all about Harriet!

I reread this book so many times as a kid. I had the movie tie-in cover which is now much loved as evidence by the very crinkled cover. I don’t remember a lot of the little details, but I have always had an affection for this book. This was probably reinforced by the movie, but to be honest, it was a great movie.

Harriet wants to be a writer, therefore she must practice. She writes down everything in her notebook, everything she sees and everything people say and do around her. I’d never thought about whether it was Harriet who subconsciously got me interested in becoming an author, I award that honour to John Marsden, but maybe she put a small seed in my head as well which started the idea growing.

Since I was a kid when I saw the movie and read the book, the movie has imprinted itself on me much more. The movie got me interested in The Walrus and the Carpenter poem, despite the fact I probably would have seen Alice in Wonderland first. I remember loving this book, and I definitely think I have blurred the movie and the book together in my imagination, but it was a great book to show what happens when you write about other people and put your opinions on paper in full detail.

I remember the book being a lot more serious than the blurb makes it sound like. As a kid I guess these things are more dire and I just remember the feeling I experienced when the others find Harriet’s notebook. The second hand mortification I felt stays with me now. It was the most intense and climactic thing I had read since being stressed about Bastian in The Never Ending Story.

Doing these Long Lost Reviews has made me reminisce about some wonderful books I know I’ve loved but have long forgotten. They also spark a strong desire to reread them, even when I can barely read the books I haven’t read yet. I may have to find some room though to revisit this little gem.

The 65-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths

Published: 12 August 2015 (print)/12 August 2015 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
  Pan Macmillan Australia /Bolinda Audio
Pages: 384/2 Hours 13 mins
Narrator: Stig Wemyss
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Junior Fiction
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Andy and Terry’s amazing 65-Storey Treehouse now has a pet-grooming salon, a birthday room where it’s always your birthday (even when it’s not), a room full of exploding eyeballs, a lollipop shop, a quicksand pit, an ant farm, a time machine and Tree-NN: a 24-hour-a-day TV news centre keeping you up to date with all the latest treehouse news, current events and gossip. Well, what are you waiting for? Come on up!

With a touch of Jack and the Beanstalk, time travel and the film Them! it’s a curious adventure Andy and Terry go on. Jill comes in with her logic and reason to bring the boys into line and solve their problems all of which combine to be a pretty normal day in the treehouse.

In this new adventure you learn new words, get to travel through history in a wheelie bin, albeit a smidge inaccurately, but it is fun. TreeNN is a fun addition as well, ending chapters with something different. I liked the break in formula in this one, no book talk, instead we need a building inspection from Inspector Bubblewrap. This prompts the time travel and all sorts of mishaps as they try to travel back 6.5 years and end up at all different points through history.

Admittedly, I couldn’t get into this story as easily as the others. I liked the diversion from the normal structure because that can be boring after a while. It was fun but not as engaging as the previous stories. I also got a visual copy in the end because while Wemyss has done a brilliant job in the past to compensate, I needed Denton’s illustrations this time to appreciate some of the jokes and references.

The Treehouse series continues to grow and change with each book and the creativity and inventiveness of Griffiths and Denton is amazing. The jokes are clever and the illustrations are so detailed that there is always something to discover in them. The two make a perfect team and while I didn’t love this storey as much as previous storeys, I look forward to seeing what the next storey in the treehouse has to offer.

You can purchase The 65-Storey Treehouse via the following

QBD | Dymocks | Book Depository

Booktopia | Angus and Robertson | Fishpond

Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Wordery | Publisher

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