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I received a beautiful piece of book jewellery from Cammy this Mother’s Day. It’s the first bookmark I’ve ever truly used properly (I usually ditch them for dog-earring pages- oops!). I spotted this book and bookmark beside me as I was brainstorming ideas for Book Week 2016, with this year’s theme being Australia! Story Country. [...]

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The Other Christy by Oliver Phommavanh

We love Oliver Phommavanh’s work… he is an entertaining, engaging and relevant writer for middle and upper primary readers, regularly writing content around the themes of friendship and diversity.

We’re quite lucky to have Oliver visit My Little Bookcase today to share the inspiration and research behind the story of his latest book, The Other Christy (perfect for girls in middle and upper primary).

The Other Christy by Oliver Phommavanh

You’ve got a Friend in Me- guest post by Oliver Phommavanh.

In my latest book, The Other Christy, I drew on my personal experiences as a teacher. I had classes with kids with the same name. Every class had its different way of telling the two or three kids apart, whether by using their surnames like Julie B and Julie W, or by variations of their names, Matty and Matthew. In one particular class, the two girls couldn’t be further apart. One was loud and hogged the spotlight with her presence. The other girl was just that…the other one; The shy girl who only said something when I marked the roll. She was a bright girl, but she just couldn’t come out of her shell. She wanted more than anything to have a friend and be heard.

The two girls never became friends in my class. But in my head I kept thinking what if?…what if two girls with the same name become unlikely friends? It follows a similar trend in my books, where two characters worlds apart, come together. In Con-nerd, Connor is a nerd who befriends a cool troublemaker kid. I’m fascinated by these friendships because it’s a reflection of what I see in the playground. For every conventional friendship brought together with a common interest like sport, there are friendships that are formed through circumstances, like being forced to do a project together.

All my books have themes of friendship. It’s funny that friendship is an actual theme but I don’t mind the tag. Friendships are family you can choose. It’s a ripe area for drama and laughs. One of my favourite books of all time is Robin Klein’s Hating Alison Ashley. I thought it perfectly captured the dynamics of friendships, especially ones between girls. Erica Yurken and Alison Ashley started off as rivals and ended up friends. Erica never saw it coming. Christy Ung would never have thought she could be friends with her enemy, but she gives Christie a chance and lets her guard down.

Christie Owens is a queen bee in class, but her besties become beasties and she’s left on the outer. I’ve seen friendships and groups form, break and make up over the course of a year. Nobody stays popular forever. Kids change. It all makes for interesting and funny stories.

More recently, I’ve enjoyed Randa Abdel-Fattah’s Friendship Matchmaker series. In these books, Lara spends her time matching kids together at school, but she doesn’t really have a friend herself. Abdel-Fattah nails the playground politics that go on at school, and I found myself nodding at those awkward moments kids have when they first meet new people.

Friendship books are not meant to show kids how to make friends. It’s not as easy as kids just having to be nice to make friends. If anything, it’s more like being yourself and finding your tribe. Even so, I think when kids read these kinds of books, they will relate to the characters without thinking too hard about any morals. It will come to them in a different way when they reflect on the story. I think about all the friends I’ve made at school, and they were more than just being stuck together in a class. The friendships that are genuine and enduring have a quality that is more than just common interests. It’s a bond and it’s something that I try to capture myself when I write my stories.

Book Details:

Title: The Other Christy

Author: Oliver Phommavanh

ISBN: 9780143505723

Publisher: Penguin Australia, June 2016

RRP: $16.99

Look out for these other titles:

Click the book covers to visit The Kids’ Bookshop for more details on these books by or recommended by Oliver:

Book Review: Hannah’s Night by Komako Sakai

Hannah's Night by Komako Sakai

I realised when sharing this book on Instagram for a #picturebookchallenge, that I never got around to officially reviewing Hannah’s Night on the blog- even though it is one of our family’s most treasured picture books.

Devastated and disappointed in myself, I set to rectifying the error of my ways…and thus, here you have my first book review in 7 months.

Hannah’s Night was originally published in Japan in 2012 and this English language edition was published by Gecko Press in 2013. I suspect there are many reasons that this book tugs at my heart strings, with my soft spot for Japan possibly playing a part.

On first glance, it is easy to fall in love with the rich, textured illustrations in warm blues and gentle pastels. Komako Sakai’s use of acrylic layers makes you feel as though you are secretly observing Hannah through a sheer veil- effectively portraying a moonlit setting.

Yes, the illustrations are truly exquisite but the story is also cleverly simple, tender and universal. Hannah, an adorable and familiar toddler, wakes in the night to find her family still sleeping. Hannah soon discovers she can raid the fridge and play with her sister’s doll, music box and pencils without being reprimanded.

I once told Cammy that as a child, planning a midnight feast was one of my favourite things to do when sleeping over at my friend’s house. She has been fascinated by these midnight escapades ever since, but as a first-born child she didn’t quite have the courage to plan one for herself. As such, Cammy quite enjoys reading about the nerve of Hannah to explore the fridge and her sister’s belongings without permission in the middle of the night.

As a first-born myself, I empathise with Hannah’s older sister and her need to protect her belongings. But Ike has taught me to sympathise with the plight of little brothers and sisters, in which they must obey the rules of their big sibling or endure the wrath if they dare break them.  For little brothers and sisters it is only in the secrecy of the night that one could get away with such antics as Hannah’s…and her quiet giggles clearly demonstrate that such freedom brings pure and  innocent joy for  little siblings.

And at the end of the night, Komako Sakai leaves us with an image of Hannah snuggled and fast asleep on the edge of her big sister’s bed- a true symbol of the very special and close, if not complicated, relationship that exists between siblings.

Hannah’s Night is beautiful in every way, and a treasure for every family member to enjoy.

Book Details

Title: Hannah’s Night

Author/Illustrator: Komako Sakai

Publisher: Gecko Press, 2013

ISBN: 9781877579554

RRP: $16.99


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