Review Blog

Jul 29 2016

The other Christy by Oliver Phommavanh

cover image

Puffin, 2016. ISBN 9780143505723
(Age: 9+) Highly recommended. Humour, Refugees, Immigration, Cambodia. Comedian and author Phommavanh has written several books for young readers, including the popular Thai-rrific (2010) and Punchlines (2012) as well as short stories included in anthologies such as Rich and Rare (2016) and Things that a Map Won't Show You (2012). His books add to the increasing number of books for children that show the lives of a range of cultures represented in Australia today.
Christy has come to Australia from Cambodia with her grandfather, after her mother died. They move into a small flat around the corner from her aunt, Mayly and her Australian husband.
But Christy has no friends and turns to Mayly for help. Another girl in her class has the same name but is rude and dismissive of Christy encouraging others to follow her lead. When Mayly suggests that food is a good way to make friends they spend the weekend baking a cake to take to school, which proves proves to be a great success. Again she approaches Christie with friendship and is rejected but undaunted she continues to bake for her class. She invites Christie to her house but this has the opposite effect as the girl takes stories back to the school about her grandfather. She finally opens up to her grandfather about how unhappy she is, and he tells her a little of his background in Cambodia, under the Kmer Rouge. This explains why her grandfather is so obsessive about dirt and tidiness. Both learn to be more accepting, and eventually Christy's cooking skills win her friends at school.
The common ground they find is wonderful in letting readers know that they too can find common ground between themselves and their friends and caregivers, and this lovely story will help them to be more accepting of older relatives.
This story of a Cambodian family in Australia, gives our safe children an eye into a world north of our country where horrific acts occurred only forty years ago, rivaling any barbarity of the twentieth century. The story allows our children to view the horrors that occurred in Cambodia through grandfather's story, gently told, of his survival when a quarter of the population of seven million people were slaughtered. The loving relationship between the two will melt hearts as they find common ground.
Fran Knight

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