Review Blog

Feb 06 2019

A lot of stuff happens by Adrian Beck et al.

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Penguin Random House Australia, 2019. ISBN: 9780143794752.
(Age: 10+) Highly recommended. For a tome (thick book), this collection of humorous stories set in the fictitious Monvale school and featuring overlapping characters, is a quick easy read. Four separate stories combine despite separate narrators. The great thing about continuity is learning that a minor character floating in the margins of one story, like Dale the dopey nose picker, can have his own set of challenges and strengths when it's his turn to tell his story. Dale plans on a loser's revenge on the popular kid during the finale of the school play but his conscience gets the better of him. Ned overcomes the new teacher's incessant praise of his older siblings. Sean is the new boy desperate to make friends and prove he is responsible and Ethan learns the fine balance between fitting in and being true to his inner bookworm.
Whilst Adrian Beck and Andrew Daddo aim for laughs, Will Kostakis and Oliver Phommavanh, keep pace by serving up unpredictable situations that cause upheaval, hard choices and growth. Aptly titled, 'a lot of stuff' is always happening! Of course it's the kind of stuff that happens to every student - changing schools, making friends, getting into trouble, school plays, group work, playground issues etc. These writers remember what it's like to be boys at school but more importantly the kind of boys who successfully navigate dilemmas by focusing on character strengths rather than stereotypical male masking behaviours. It helps that all four authors master their realistic dialogue and inner monologues. While a potentially good read-aloud to enjoy and discuss collectively, this book will have a strong appeal to middle primary students - enough to warrant extra copies.
Deborah Robins

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