Stresshead, by Allayne Webster

A girl wearing reindeer ears and a name tag: Say Hello to Melanie drags milk through the checkout and shoves it into my green enviro bag. I’m almost sure I see a speech bubble appear above her antlers: I’d rather be anywhere but here.
I can think of more important things I could be doing at a quarter to seven in the morning than buying milk. I need to get home and check the net again. Year Eleven exam results come out today and my Wi-Fi has picked this morning of all mornings to go on the blink. Not a good omen. I’ve double-checked my mobile fifty gazillion times: No Messages.
Today marks the fourth day Jack hasn’t answered my calls, my textsies, emails, Twitter or Facebook. Four totally suck-worthy days of boyfriend incommunicado. That’s as long as we’ve ever gone without talking – a Guinness Book of Records qualifier.

It’s results day and Dennie can’t access the internet. Everyone in her family is a lawyer and it’s crunch time, career-decision-wise. Her boyfriend is AWOL, her best friend has a problem…and…and…it seems everyone wants a piece of Dennie, except when they don’t and they should. Then there’s Clara, friend of Mum’s who doesn’t have a care in the world; a suddenly turning up sister, a secret-sharing mother, an oddly-loquacious overseas brother and Dennie’s head is spinning. Everyone wants to know when she’s going to choose law, like all the rest of the family. Dennie sees them so sure and her insecurities feel like the worst secret in the world. This is going to be her toughest Christmas yet, if she makes it that far.

Yes, Dennie is a stresshead. But she’s got good reason. She seems to be the go-to girl for everyone’s troubles. Her family is united by their connection to law, but for a group of people who talk for a living, they seem to struggle with talking to one another. Like most families, they rub along together without really talking. And when summer heats up, so do emotions in this household. Dennie seems to be the calm one, although she is prone to sudden not-so-tactful outburst. As it must, the pressure begins to tell and Dennie can no longer hold all the secrets, all her fears inside. Help comes from surprising places. And Dennie learns that no one, no one, is exactly as they appear. This is high – almost camp – drama: serious and funny all at the same time. Recommended for mid-secondary readers.

Stresshead, Allayne Webster
Omnibus Books 2011
ISBN: 9781862918207

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book can be purchased from good bookstores, or online from Fishpond.

Barnesy, by Allayne Webster

Dad hates mowing the lawn. He says Victor the Lawnmower is evil. My dad is the only one I know who has a name for his lawnmower. No one else’s dad’s lawnmower has a name. I’ve checked. I asked all the kids in my class.

Hannaford is called Hannaford because of an inventor of farm machines. Stumpy the cockatoo is called Stumpy because he was found on a stump having a fight with a stumpy tailed lizard and because Dad is stumped to know how Stumpy won. Hannaford has had enough with these names. He wants to name the next animal that comes to their house. He wants a sensible name. So when his chance comes he calls the new lamb Barnesy after his favourite singer. He discovers that perhaps he’s acquired some of his namesake’s inventing skills and then there’s his solution to Dad’s regular arguments with Victor. Tom Jellett has used collage and pencil to perhaps mimic a school project.

Barnesy is a new title in the Mates series from Omnibus. Barnesy celebrates a very Australian way of life, where children can still run free and animals can always find a safe home. Hannaford’s might be frustrated with the strange names around his place, but he’s still very attached to his family and the way they work together. This family is not perfect – Mum gets cross with Dad, Dad gets cross with Victor, Hannaford gets cross with his sister, but they all pull together when they need to support an injured animal. Told in first person, Hannaford tells his story with warmth and truth. Barnesy is full of wry humour and is sure to be enjoyed by newly independent readers (and their parents!)

Barnesy (Mates)

Barnesy, Allayne Webster ill Tom Jellett,
Omnibus Books 2010
ISBN: 9781862918214

Reviewed by Claire Saxby Children’s book author.

This book can bre purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through these links supports Aussiereviews.