Meet My Book: The Other Christy, by Oliver Phommavanh

We love visitors here at Aussiereviews, but it’s been a while since we’ve had an author drop by to chat about their latest book – so it’s especially wonderful to welcome Oliver Phommavanh today, here to tell us about his new children’s novel, The Other Christy. Welcome Oliver.

1. Give us the details – title, publisher, illustrator, release date.
My book’s called The Other Christy, published by Penguin Random House and it came out on 13th June.

OtherCHristy2. Why did you write the book?
It’s a story about two girls who share the same name in a class and they don’t like each other. But then they discover they have something more in common than just their name. I love writing about weird or awkward characters and I have this fascination as a teacher and author of seeing unlikely friendships form. I also had this voice of a shy girl with loud ideas in my head for awhile, just waiting to be unleashed.
3. How long from idea to publication?
Almost two years.
4. What was the hardest thing about writing it?
I wasn’t sure about how deep to delve into Christy’s family and her Cambodian background. Christy’s grandpa lived through war with the Khmer Rogue and he carries a lot of emotional scars. It was tricky at first but I found the right balance with sharing some insightful moments with some light-hearted humour.
5. Coolest thing about your book?
Christy’s passion is baking so she creates a lot of sweet treats. I tried to bake with my wife, and made brownies, cupcakes and cookies. Research never tasted so good.
6. Something you learnt through writing the book?
I went to Cambodia last year to visit the war memorial and genocide museum in Phnom Penh. I was absorbed with all of the personal recounts and stories, and was determined to shed a little light on that in my book.
7. What did you do celebrate the release?
My wife and I baked a whole lot of desserts for my book launch. Everybody walked away with a book and some delicious treats

8. And how will you promote the book?
I’ve just finished a whirlwind promotion tour with my publicist across three states and doing a blog tour now. I’ll continue to talk about The Other Christy at various festivals for the rest of the year.

9. What are you working on next?
I’m working on the sequel to Con-nerd, called Super Con-nerd. Hopefully it’ll come out in March 2017.

10. Where we can find out more about you and your book?
You can check out my website, and like my facebook page at Plus you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @oliverwinfree

Thanks for visiting Oliver. If you want to find out more about The Other Christy, you can visit the other stops on Oliver’s blog tour. And you can see my review of The Other Christy here.





Frankie, by Shivaun Plozza

Book Cover:  FrankieIt was a young voice on the phone. Male. ‘Are you Francesca Vega?’
‘I’m Frankie. Who the hell are you?’
‘Is Juliet Vega your mum?’
‘Why are you asking?’
‘Cos I’m Xavier Green. She’s my mum too.’
Bam, crash, ka-pow. Hell of a game changer.

Frankie Vega is in trouble. She’s broken a boy’s nose and is at risk of being expelled. But that’s only the latest of her troubles, which began when her mother abandoned her when she was four. Since then Frankie has been scared and angry with just about everybody. So when a kid turns up claiming to be her brother, Frankie is wary of being hurt. Then, when Xavier goes missing, she isn’t sure whether he’s let her down or whether he is actually lost. It seems no one else but Frankie cares where he has gone.

Frankie is a moving and absorbing contemporary novel. Frankie is a sassy yet inwardly fragile character whose first person voice is believable and oddly endearing, even when she’s behaving badly towards the few people in her life who seem to care for her. Her story is heartbreaking but also has funny and heartwarming moments.

Dealing with issues including what constitutes family, homelessness and self-belief, Frankie is a brilliant young adult novel.

Frankie, by Shivaun Plozza
Penguin, 2016
ISBN 9780143573166

Summer Harvest, by Georgina Penney

Book Cover:  Summer HarvestShe wasn’t sure what had contributed to her idiocy the most. It was a toss-up between her completely rational and reasonable fear of creepy-crawlies and the winded feeling she’d experienced on catching sight of the rural god who came to her rescue. His face had looked like something someone had carved out of granite with a blunt knife. He’d been all broad planes, deep grooved lines, high cheekbones and a slightly off-centre, once-broken nose. She’d caught him studying her with a set of thickly lashed, deep brown eyes that were disconcertingly pretty in contrast with the rest of him. She had experienced genuine heart palpitations

When Beth Poole, on holiday from England, first meets handsome Clayton Hardy, there is an instant, mutual attraction. Clayton has come to her rescue on the side of a rural road, and it turns out he runs the property adjoining the one she will be staying on for the next two months. Beth is divorced and Clayton is single, so there is nothing stopping them getting together: except her self-consciousness, his fear of getting hurt, and the secret she’s keeping from him.

Summer Harvest is a moving romance story featuring two strong, yet emotionally fragile people, as well as an interesting supporting cast. Clayton’s family is large and there are several other romances and family dramas happening, while Beth’s family, back in England, consists of her slightly crazy, soapie-obsessed gran, Violet, and her second husband Lionel, who also feature strongly.

For all the romance, drama and humour, there is also a serious side to the story, as it explores issues of cancer, its treatment and aftermath. Beth is a breast cancer survivor, and Clayton’s mum died from leukaemia when he was younger, the effects of both events on the two families are far-reaching.

From the author of Fly-In, Fly-Out and with overlapping characters, Summer Harvest will appeal to lovers of romance and family dramas.

Summer Harvest, by Georgina Penney
Michael Joseph, an imprint of Penguin, 2016
ISBN 9780143797081

New Boy, by Nick Earls

The car is still all snot and tears and noise when we get to the drop-off zone outside One Mile Creek State School.

As Mom’s door opens, Hansie’s screaming makes everyone look at us – students, parents, teachers, all arriving at this same precise inconvenient moment. This is not the perfect beginning to my first day.

I am supposed to look cooler than this.

Before he and his family moved to Australia, Herschelle used the internet to research what life would be like, and to learn Australian slang. But now that he’s here, Herschelle is discovering that it is very different than he expected: the food is strange, the other kids don’t understand his accent, and the other kids haven’t heard of most of the so-called Aussie slang he has learnt. At his last school, he was one of the cool kids, but here he’s quickly learning what it’s like to be different.

New Boy is a funny, moving story about the immigrant experience, about belonging and about bullying and racism. Primary aged readers will laugh at Herschelle’s problems with language and his surprise at how things are done in Australia, but they’ll also feel for him as he struggles to understand and to adapt.

Herschelle is a likeable narrator, and New Boy is a valuable tool for classroom reading as well as for private enjoyment.

New Boy, by Nick Earls
Puffin Books, 2015
ISBN 9780143308393

Available from good bookstores and online.

Seasons of War, by Christopher Lee

I was young then. I remember the landing on the beach and the days of my time on the peninsula and returning home from the war, the past and the present coming together over the years. I remember the beauty of the ugly place.

Michael is a teenager off on an adventure, having joined up to keep his beloved brother Dan company. Their friends Knobby, Mack and Hughie are there too, and together they land at Gallipoli where they quickly realise that this campaign is like nothing they could have imagined.

From Australian screenwriter Christopher Lee, Seasons of War is a slim volume recounting one fictional soldier’s Gallipoli campaign. At the same time, it covers the major events of the whole campaign including insights into the workings of the British command (particularly General Hamilton), the tactics and statistics of all the major battles and the actions of the Turkish enemy. Michael’s story, though, is central, and as a first person narrator he is blunt about the horror of his experience, and of what goes on around him.

In amongst the great number of books released to mark the 100 year anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign, Seasons of War could easily be missed because it is a small book with an understated, though moving, cover  and it is not a comfortable read. But that’s the point. We need stories of war which paint the horror and the waste explicitly so that we understand as nearly as possible what happened.


Seasons of War, by Christopher Lee
Viking, an imprint of Penguin, 2015
ISBN 9780670078837

Available from good bookstores and online.

Looking for Alibrandi, by Melina Marchetta

I’m beginning to realise that things don’t turn out the way you want them to. And sometimes when they don’t, they can turn out just a little bit better.

Josephine Alibrandi is in her final year of highschool, and it’s going to be a good one. She’s going to stay out of trouble, work hard and get into law at uni.  But her determination doesn’t last long – she’s in trouble on the first day  in religous education class. And this is just the start of a tumultuous year where Josephine (Josie) falls in love, gets her first job, fights with her mother and nonna, and meets her father for the first time. Along the way she has to confront who she really is, and who she wants to be.

Looking for Alibrandi is a classic coming of age story. First published over twenty years ago, it has been re-released as part the Penguin Australian Children’s Classics series in a delightful hardcover edition. Teens will love getting to know this sassy main character and adults will enjoy the chance to become reacquainted with her. The writing is still fresh and appealing with themes and issues which are still relevant to today’s readers.


Looking for Alibrandi , by Melina Marchetta
Penguin, 2014
ISBN 9780670077786

Available from good bookstores or online.

The Grace Stories, by Sofie Laguna

Pegasus looked so thin and hungry. If he had food in his belly, perhaps he would have the strength to pull the cart. That way the cab driver wouldn’t take him to be butchered.
She crossed the road, dodging carts and carriages and men pushing barrows, back to the man selling fruit. Without waiting to make sure his back was turned, or his attention elsewhere, she grabbed three apples, tossed them into her kettle and dived back into the traffic.

It is 1808 and Grace’s life is hard. She spends her days as a mudlark, sifting through the muddy bottom of the Thames in search of anything her cruel uncle can sell. Her only pleasure in life is a horse called Pegasus who she visits when she can. But when Pegaus’s life is in danger, Grace takes a terrible risk, and soon is sentenced to transportation to Australia.

Previously published as four separate books in the Our Australian Girl series, The Grace Stories traces Grace’s adventures in London, on the journey to Australia, and as she makes a new life in the colony.

Bound in hardcover with a magnetic clasp, this is a sturdy collectable edition which will delight history-loving readers.


Book Cover:  Our Australian Girl: The Grace Stories

The Grace Stories , by Sofie Laguna
Viking Penguin, 2013
ISBN 9780670077540

Available in good bookstores and online.

The Power of One, by Bryce Courtenay (Australian Children’s Classics Edition)

He had given me

the Power of One,

one idea, one heart,

one mind, one plan,

one determination.

Since it was first published in 1989, The Power of One has been loved by readers young and old. Telling the tale of Peekay, growing up in South Africa during the years of the second world war, in a time of political and social turmoil for the country, and more personal trauma for Peekay. Abandoned in boarding school at the age of five, and much-hated by the older children because he is English rather than Afrikaans, Peekay has to learn to be true to himself. Whilst his childhood is difficult, he makes a series of diverse friends who, together with Peekay’s own courage, set him on a path to success.

Part of the new Australian Children’s Classics series, this edition is abridged so that it covers the first half of Peekay’s story. Older readers will want to seek out the unabridged version, but this version is self-contained and finishes at a naturally satisfying point, providing an excellent introduction to Courtenay’s work for younger readers.

Book Cover: The Power of One: Australian Children’s Classics

The Power of One (Australian Children’s Classics edition), by Bryce Courtenay
Viking, 2013
ISBN 9780670077564

Available from good bookstores and online .

Baby Bedtime, by Mem Fox & Emmay Quay

I could eat your little ears.
I could nibble on your nose.
I could munch your tiny fingers.
I could gobble up your toes.

The gentle lulling rhythm of this rhyming bedtime offering is divine. Written for the very young, it could be read to newborn babies but will still be suitable for older toddlers and preschoolers, especially as an end of day read. The text describes all the things the narrator/parent could be doing in adoration of the child, but ends with a reminder that it’s bedtime and so time for sleep. In the meantime, the kissing and cuddling and settling to bed has happened in the illustrations – between a a pair of purple elephants who could be either a male or female parent (or grandparent/carer) and child. These lovely elephants are rendered using pencil and acrylics, and digital collage using a variety of objects including fabrics, knitting and baskets.

The format of the book also makes it suitable for bedtime – the hardcover being cushioned to make it soft touch. It’s easy to imagine a toddler sleeping with the book.

Perfect as a gift for a newborn, Baby Bedtime is a book to be treasured.


Book Cover:  Baby Bedtime

Baby Bedtime, by Mem Fox & Emma Quay
Penguin, 2013
ISBN 9780670075195

Available from good bookstores and online.

Davy and the Duckling, by Margaret Wild & Julie Vivas

When the baby duck hatched, the first thing it saw was Davy.
It fluffed its feathers – and started following Davy everywhere.
Around the farmyard,
under the apple trees
and all the way home.

When Dad tells Davy that the duckling thinks he’s its mother, Davy decides that’s just what he’ll be. He makes a nest for it, takes it for its first swim and cares for it. Davy and the duck are together throughout their lives.

Davy and the Duckling is a gentle, moving tale about the love between a child and his unlikely pet. As Davy grows, so too does the duck, there for all the highs and lows of Davy’s life, from losing a friend, to finishing highschool, and even to marrying . The duck ages and becomes fragile, but their friendship remains strong, and the bond is strengthened when Davy becomes a father, and the duck appears to think it is Molly’s mother.

A beautiful cycle of life story, Davy and the Duckling is brought to life with the gentle but lively illustrative work of Julie Vivas.



Book Cover:  Davy and the Duckling

Davy and the Duckling, by Margaret Wild & Julie Vivas
Penguin, 2013
ISBN 9780670075614

Available from good bookstores and online.