The Whole Business With Kiffo and the Pitbull, by Barry Jonsberg

I don’t know you at all. I wouldn’t recognise you from a hole in the ground. If I was telling this story to some friends, then they would already know Kiffo and they would know me and they would know the school and everything. I would be able to get straight into what happened when a new English teacher, the Pitbull, slobbered and snarled her way into out class. But you don’t know anything. No offence.

Calma Harrison is a smart girl, who has loads of ability and gets good grades, but her attitude sometimes lands her in trouble. But when a new English teacher comes to school, Calma soon finds herself in more trouble than she could have ever imagined. Calma and her unlikely friend Kiffo pretty quickly end up on the wrong side of the English teacher (known affectionately by the pair as ‘the Pitbull’). When they set out to get revenge, they uncover something suspicious happening. Could their English teacher really be a drug dealer? Calma and Kiffo think she is, but before they can tell anyone, they need some evidence.

This is an outstanding debut novel, combining humour with some pretty serious subject matter including family, friendship and death. Calma is a likeable character who tells the story as she sees it, even willing to admit when she has been wrong. She is supported by a cast of strange but intriguing characters – a mother who masquerades as a fridge, a teacher who masquerades as a pitbull and, of course, Kiffo, who comes from a violent home and is harshly judged by nearly everyone who knows him.

An excellent offering for teen readers.

The Whole Business With Kiffo and the Pitbull, by Barry Jonsberg
Allen & Unwin, 2004

It's Not All About You, Calma

He is back, Fridge. He turned up this morning like a bad smell, though I attempted to waft him away. We need to arrange new identities, false passports and visas for the Galapagos Islands. Give me the word and I’ll withdraw the forty-eight dollars from my savings account.

Calma Harrison doesn’t like to over-react, but when her long-absent father turns up in Darwin, she wants to leave town. After all, it’s been five years since he left town with a barmaid, and Calma isn’t ready to forgive him. To make matters worse, her mother (aka: the Fridge) seems to be keeping a secret from her and her best friend Vanessa has a huge problem.

Still, life’s not all bad. The new checkout boy at Crazi-Cheep , Jason, is gorgeous, and when Calma gets a job there she hopes to make him her boyfriend. Calma’s new English teacher, Miss Moss, is the best teacher she’s ever had and is helping her improve her writing.

But in spite of these good things, Calma’s life seems to be falling apart. Her relationship with her mum is increasingly strained, and her dad just won’t go away and leave her alone. Calma knows it’s up to her to fix everything once and for all.

It’s Not All About YOU, Calma! is a funny novel about some serious issues. Calma is, as she points out, an unreliable narrator, because she likes to stretch the truth. Her voice is fresh, sarcastic downright funny. Readers will laugh along with her, even in the midst of some pretty heavy events.

This is the sequel to The Whole Business of Kiffo and the Pitbull, but stands alone, so that readers don’t need to have read the first novel to love the second. Kiffo was short listed for this year’s CBCA Awards, and this novel is sure to find similar success.


It’s Not All About YOU, Calma!, by Barry Jonsberg
Allen & Unwin, 2005