Sunshine on Vinegar Street by Karen Comer

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Freya’s co-parenting parents have moved from Eltham for work to two different places. Her architect Dad has moved to Broome and Freya and her Mum have moved to Abbotsford in inner-city Melbourne. The change is huge for Freya who leaves behind her best friends, Raffie and Gemma, her basketball team, and the joy of living between two houses side by side. She and her Mum now live on the 11th floor of a high-rise apartment building with the café below where her Mum works and opposite one of Melbourne’s most iconic symbols, the Skipping Girl Vinegar sign, which is an important element of the story.

Freya’s first experience on the local basketball court near her apartment block sets the tone for the start of her life in a new place. Her beloved basketball is taken off by two mean girls who are unfortunately in her new class at school as well as being on the basketball team that Freya joins. The relentless bullying by these girls is central to the story and impacts heavily on Freya’s inability to settle in and affects her performance on the basketball court - the one place where she usually shines. Added to this is her fear of elevators and the problem that causes being on the 11th floor.

Eventually Freya does begin to make friends, play school netball, visits Gemma and Raffie and unknown to her Mum keeps a pet mouse. However, the mean girls, IVF babies and the problems on the basketball team take longer to resolve. Finally, Freya’s Dad comes back for his first visit, and it is during this time everything comes to a head for Freya.

Author Karen Comer has a written an astonishing verse novel with so much packed into a clever use of word shapes, text changes and highlighted words, as well as plenty of basketball and netball references. For older primary school students this would make a wonderful class novel.

Themes: Verse Novel, Moving House, Families, Friendship, Basketball, School, Belonging, Bullying, Change, Overcoming Adversity, Social Media.

Kathryn Beilby