Life of the Party
Allen & Unwin, 2018
112pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99
Susie K is nine years old and says she has mega-huge problems – problems as big as the Sydney Opera House, as tall as the Eiffel Tower and as massive as the pyramids of Egypt. But she is OK with that because she likes to use her scientific mind to solve them, and understanding the importance of keeping records of the trials she has to solve the problem, she has decided to keep a file on each one that she solves.
Her first problem is that she loves animals but is allergic to fur so she has the class goldfish for her only pet. Problems 2, 3 and 4 come in the shape of her family – firstly her dad who is a mad sports fanatic and Susie is not; then her brother Jack who is constantly putting her down;and #4 is her mum who is a Sri Lankan refugee who had a very tough childhood and refers to it often so she now wants Susie to be a huge success at everything she tries, which would be impossible even if she didn’t have the ridiculous name of Susanna Saathiavanni Kanagaratnam-Smith. Why couldn’t she just be Susie Smith? But being like most little girls, Susie is keen to please her mum and does her best to do so.
At school, Susie prefers the people in books to the people in real life so she’s not the most popular person, which she doesn’t mind and is relieved when she is no longer invited to parties and other social occasions. But when her mum discovers she was the only one not at a class pool party, her mum decides to do something about it even though Susie begs her not to get involved because parents sticking their noses in does not always have a happy outcome. And so Operation: Life of the Party begins…
In the second in the series, Game Changer, her mother is thrilled that Susie is competing in the school sports carnival but when you are no good at sport and actually hate them, the problems start.
This is a new series that will really support newly-independent readers with its graphic-novel type format as much of Susie’s thoughts and conversations are in a cartoon-like style that not only moves the action along but adds greater depth to Susie’s character as she works her way through the issues. Many girls will see themselves in Susie’s shoes, if not with the family background but definitely with the problems she has and they will gain insight and perhaps hope that with some lateral thinking, there isn’t anything that can’t be negotiated or solved – without a parent interfering!
A read-alone rather than a read-aloud, this is an intriguing new series that deserves a place in your collection.