Review Blog

Jun 22 2012

Punchlines by Oliver Phommavanh

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Puffin, 2012. ISBN 978014330651. $16194 p
(Ages: 11+) Recommended. Johnny Khamka is in Year Ten, and a member of the Bad Bugs trio with his two best friends, Jeffro and Razeal. He has a desperate crush on his now gorgeous, (and taken) childhood friend Josie, and a desperate need to entertain everyone with his self deprecating humour. It is this humour that he thinks may win Josie's heart.
Johnny has grown up watching his dad be an entertaining MC at Vietnamese and Laotian community events and always wondered why his dad does not do this as a job. His father's negative reaction to Johnny entering a local Stand Up Comedy Event is also puzzling to Johnny. This tension between Johnny and his dad over Johnny's participation and the resolution of this towards the end of the novel is particularly well handled by the author.
I have previously really enjoyed reading Thai-riffic and Con-nerd by the same author and this novel has the same appeal. Johnny is a very engaging and believable character and the situations he finds himself in are often laugh out loud moments.
I recommend this for your middle school students who are always asking for funny books and it also ticks boxes for Asian perspectives. Try it with your older Wimpy Kid fans.
Chris Lloyd

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