by Sally Harris
Frankly Books, 2012
Middle Grade Contemporary/Humor
ARC received from author for honest review.
ABOUT THE BOOK
3 weeks ...
2 boys ...
1 little penguin ...
What could possibly go wrong?
When 11 (and a half) year old Marty is partnered up with Jessica on the overnight science trip, he thinks all of this dreams are about to come true. It's his big chance to impress the most beautiful girl in Year 7 (and probably the world) and he wouldn't miss it for anything.
Only problem is: Marty can't afford to go on the overnight trip.
Inspired by the urban myth that it is possible to steal a penguin from the zoo on a school visit, Diary of a Penguin-napper is a hilarious tale of growing up, bending the rules and how one big fuss can be caused by stealing just one little penguin.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
SALLY HARRIS grew up in Mildura and wrote her first book when she was in Grade 4 – it was a joke book, full of some seriously corny jokes.
Since then she has barely stopped writing stories and while her taste in jokes may not have improved, she likes to think that her storytelling skills have.
After graduating with a degree in Children’s Literature, Sally has been busy writing and working as a primary teacher, in both Australia and the UK, where she has endless classes of children to test out her stories on.
She now lives in Melbourne and when she’s not writing, you can find her teaching, dancing, drinking chai lattes, reading children's books and scouring the paper for unlikely news articles to turn into exciting fiction.
Sally loves animals, including penguins, and if she can't have one of those as a pet, a dog would be the next best thing.
Diary of a Penguin-napper is her first book.
What defines Australian children's literature?
Sometimes, in Australia, we forget how isolated we are from the rest of the world. The first time that this really became apparent to me was when I travelled over to the UK to complete my Masters, majoring in children's literature, and we were discussing significant texts of our childhoods. Now in Australia, if you say the names Mem Fox, John Marsden, Jackie French or Andy Griffiths, other Aussie's will know who you are talking about. These are, after all, successful and prolific Australian writers and are well known 'down under'. And yet, for all of their success here, they are hardly known on the international stage.
When I got thinking about the work of these authors, books that I consider to be really quintessentially Australian, there were a few key similarities between many of their stories that I think help to define them as Australian children's literature.
And, looking at my own book, Diary of a Penguin-napper, I think that it is the following key qualities that identify it as a piece of Australian children's literature:
It is written by Aussies and set in Australia
When thinking about what defines Australian children's literature, I believe that the most simple definition is that it is stories written by Australians and set in Australia. Diary of a Penguin-napper meets both of these requirements, as I am Australian (obviously) and the story is set in the suburbs of the fictional city of 'Sydbourne'. A lot of great Australian stories for children take place in realistic settings, taking a unique look at everyday Australian life.
There are some great names and nicknames
Australians shorten everything. A barbeque is a barbie, the afternoon is the arvo and breakfast is breaky. We also shorten people's names or give them nicknames. Robert would be Robbo, Tim Johnston would be Johnno and John Smith would be Smithy. In Diary of a Penguin-napper, the first character with a really Aussie name that comes to mind is Marty, which is short for Martin. Then, of course, there is his best mate, Turds. Short for Scott Trudman (Trudman accidentally became Turdman, which then became Turds) using a nickname is an easy way of adding humour to the story. The same applies with the police officers. They could have had proper names, but they are much funnier as officers Fat and Skinny.
It is rich in humour and trouble-making
Australians are known for not taking life too seriously and for flouting authority. Stories that can capture both of these aspects of the 'Aussie spirit' are really popular down here - and what is funnier and naughtier than stealing a penguin on a school trip in an attempt to impress a girl? As a teacher, I know that even the most reluctant readers are likely to stick with a book if it makes them laugh and so Diary of a Penguin-napper was really written with these kids in mind.
Whilst there are many, more academic, indicators of the 'Australian-ness' of a book for children, when I think back over the books of my childhood, it is some or all of these qualities that really stand out in the Australian stories that I loved. That said, probably the very best part about Australian children's literature is that you don't even have to be Australian to enjoy it!
You can get a taste of Sally's frank insight to all things writing, publishing and marketing at @franklybooks on Twitter. This is the last stop on her whirlwind penguin-napping blog tour and you can check out the other stops (and her blogging) by visiting www.frankly-books.com
Better still, you can buy a copy of Diary of a Penguin-napper in paperback or e-book at Amazon.com or Smashwords from only 99c.
Giggle, giggle, snort. What a funny story of young love and misguided thinking. I mean seriously, stealing a penguin?! I would never have thought of such a thing and I can't think of any other book on such a topic. Maybe that's one of the great things about reading literature that comes from other countries, the introduction of stories that are different and unusual. I personally really enjoy these kind of books and I'm glad I had a chance to read this one.
This story revolves around a teenage boy trying to impress his crush and find a way to go on his biology class field trip. With the help of some friends(?), he decides to steal/borrow a penguin from the local zoo. How he expected to hide the penguin from his mother is an interesting question, but then again, how many teenagers think things through completely before they act?
This book reminds me of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, although instead of comics it uses illustrations involving diagrams and notes from Marty's diary/notebook. This helps make the book especially kid-friendly. I found the book easy to read and it starts off with a bang as Marty faces the consequences of his choices. I highly recommend this book to kids who want something a little different and yet funny and relatable.