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