My Life as an Alphabet by Barry Jonsberg

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Published: 1 February 2013Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Allen & Unwin
Pages: 256
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★  ★  – 3 Stars

 

This isn’t just about me. It’s also about the other people in my life – my mother, my father, my dead sister Sky, my penpal Denille, Rich Uncle Brian, Earth-Pig Fish and Douglas Benson From Another Dimension. These are people [with the exception of Earth-Pig Fish, who is a fish] who have shaped me, made me what I am. I cannot recount my life without recounting elements of theirs. This is a big task, but I am confident I am up to it.

Introducing Candice Phee: twelve years old, hilariously honest and a little … odd. But she has a big heart, the very best of intentions and an unwavering determination to ensure everyone is happy. So she sets about trying to ‘fix’ all the problems of all the people [and pets] in her life.

Jonsberg captures Candice’s uniqueness remarkably well. With her voice and actions we get an insight into who she is and the kind of life she leads. She has a unique way of thinking and acting, but while she is odd in some people’s eyes, her heart has good intentions.

The premise of detailing her story through the A-Z school assignment is a clever solution as it allows Candice’s story to be told in full and you can see the interconnecting actions. Jonsberg explores her family situation and the complex history naturally and in due course, we also get to see her interactions with those around her like her friends and fellow classmates.

Underneath the humour and the quirkiness there is a powerful story about family and forgiveness, and the healing nature of love. Candice is a powerful force in her own right and it is cringe-worthy at times when you read about what she is doing, but understanding she is twelve years old, with her own way of thinking, sometimes that is just what is called for.

You can purchase My Life as an Alphabet via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Goodbye Mr Chips by James Hilton

Published: 1st December 1982Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Laurel Leaf
Pages: 115
Format: Paperback
Genre: Classic
★   ★   ★   ★   ★ – 5 Stars

Full of enthusiasm, young English schoolmaster Mr. Chipping came to teach at Brookfield in 1870. It was a time when dignity and a generosity of spirit still existed, and the dedicated new schoolmaster expressed these beliefs to his rowdy students. Nicknamed Mr. Chips, this gentle and caring man helped shape the lives of generation after generation of boys. He became a legend at Brookfield, as enduring as the institution itself. And sad but grateful faces told the story when the time came for the students at Brookfield to bid their final goodbye to Mr. Chips.

 

I can see why this is a much loved and adored book. It took me no more than an hour to read but it is so heartfelt and beautifully written that I could have flipped back to page one and spent another hour in the life of Mr Chipping. This book follows the story of a teacher at an English school through the changes and historical events of the late 19th to the early decades of the 20th century. Mr Chips is wonderfully depicted and his love of his job and commitment is amazing. As the book ended I was so involved that while it was emotional, it was also comforting and almost reassuring I guess. I don’t really know how else to put it. I highly recommend this to anybody and everybody.

You can purchase Goodbye, Mr Chips via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

The One Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith

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Published: 1956Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Heinemann
Pages: 199
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★  ★   ★  – 4 Stars

 

When Missis and Pongo’s puppies go missing, the two Dalmatian parents know the scary Cruella de Vil has had something to do with it. After all, she adores furs, and the Dalmatians have such beautiful coats… The dogs’ pets, Mr and Mrs Dearly, don’t understand them, so it is up to Pongo and Missis to rescue their pups.

 
I found this book when I was in the midst of tracking down books of movies I love and this was one of them. A book I didn’t know existed but am glad to have found. The story of The Hundred and One Dalmatians is charming and sweet and looks at the world through the eyes of a dog. Not in depth, but these animals still see the world very human like, less as a dog alone and more dog in a human world.

For those who think they know this story will be surprised at the differences, but some similarities stay the same to the movie versions. It is a bit odd reading it with preconceptions but you soon forget and embrace the story as its own. As characters the dogs are not that bad. Pongo is a strong dog who loves his ‘pet’ and his ‘wife’. Pongo’s wife Missis is a bit daft and a little stupid if anything but she is sweet. I had liked the idea of two strong dogs fighting for their puppies but Missis is too stupid sometimes though for a dog it is understandable, but the way other dogs are portrayed she stands out, though some of the explanations about Pongo and his behaviour as just as farfetched. There is a third dog added into the story, I didn’t care for her very much for the most part but by the end she is tolerable and every one has their place.

I did like how close to reality some of this remained. Smith looks at the logistics of traipsing all those dogs across England and knows that for them it isn’t going to be a quick trip. She includes potential dangers and how dogs can be limited no matter how much they ‘learn’. I am not entirely sure when this was set, but based on its first edition and some references it was before a lot of suburbia took over England and a lot of modern conveniences took over. This makes it very adventurous but being from that era it is adds realism.

A lot of dogs feature in this and each have their own helpful natures that are very dog like. But they are subject to judgement as it certainly doesn’t add to the Staffy’s reputation, but aside from that a lot of these breeds are true to nature even if a smidge exaggerated.

Smith plays with the reader a bit but in the end it is rewarded and makes a good memory test trying to keep track of everyone but she did well. A decent read and a new experience for someone who likes this story, especially if you are ingrained in the movie versions as I was.

You can purchase The One Hundred and One Dalmatians via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

More Than Friends by Liv Devereaux

Published: 5th September 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Self Published
Pages: 47
Format: ebook
Genre: Young Adult/Short Story
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Dana and Hope used to be best friends in elementary school. When they got to high school they lost touch. Dana got busy with soccer and Hope found a boyfriend. When they are paired up together for a project, Dana and Hope get the chance to get to know each other all over again. They’ll realize that both girls have changed in the last three years of high school. 

I picked this not looking at the page length, rather by the summary. I could easily see this as a full novel though, Devereaux easily could expand this into something longer, the bones are there. As is it is sweet, a bit rushed and easily solved, but at 47 pages you can’t expect anything but happy coincidences and easy solutions.

Despite this, it was a nice story, and even though it was short it felt established and rounded and a satisfactory read. Dana and Hope were good characters, the dual narration offers two perspectives and two stories, a great chance for readers to see the misunderstandings and hidden secrets which make young romance so lovely.

I would read this again if Devereaux expanded this into a full novel, but for the time being it was a lovely story about young love and repairing friendships.

You can purchase More Than Friends via the following

Amazon | Amazon Aust

First Kiss by J Tomas

Published: 29th August 2011Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 JMS Books LLC
Pages: 11
Format: ebook
Genre: Young Adult/Short Story
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Noah Lipinski has a fierce crush on Doug Hathaway, a hot jock on the high school football team whose locker is fifteen down from Noah’s in the hall. When Melissa Bradshaw, only the most popular girl in school, suddenly shows an interest in Noah, he suspects he’s being set up for a cruel joke. She asks him to Homecoming and he refuses to go.

After school, the doorbell rings and Noah’s sure she’s back to pester him about the dance. But when he opens the door, he finds Doug there instead, with an explanation and a much better offer than Melissa’s.

At 11 pages there is a lot of pressure to make a fully rounded story and Tomas almost hits the mark. For a short story is covers the key intrigue points but there wasn’t enough time to get a feel for the writing, or get settled into the story. It is an enjoyable snippet, but I wasn’t totally caught up in the story, Noah was a good character, and I could see the approach Tomas was aiming for, but there just needed a bit more to cement the narrative. Tomas brushes past the characters, enough for the reader to get a glimpse at who they’re meant to be, but nothing sticks beyond one dimension.

I’m not 100% sure more pages would help, there can be power in a short story, there needs refinement in the writing though to make the characters count in the space they have and bring across depth in the story.

You can purchase First Kiss via the following

Amazon | Amazon Aust

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