Shelley Johannes, Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker, Lothian Children’s Books/Hachette Australia, 29 August 2017, 160pp., $12.99 (pbk) ISBN 9780734417336
If Beatrice Zinker was real, I would absolutely want her to befriend my daughters. Beatrice Zinker is 8-years-old, a little bit quirky, and loads of fun. She comes from a standard “right-side up” family, where she’s the only “upside down thinker”. She loves hanging upside down from trees, doing handstands and approaching life with a little hijinks.
Before the school holidays, Beatrice and her bestie, Lenny, made plans for the following school year. At playtime, they would be spies with a secret headquarters and they’d wear their black Ninja costumes. They were so excited. But when they return to school, Lenny is wearing a dress. With ruffles. And she has a new friend who wants to play veterinarians.
Beatrice is surprised and a little hurt and readers are able to see how she uses her creative thinking to deal with the new situation. Friendships do seem to start becoming more complicated around this age, so I’m sure many young readers will relate to the story. I particularly like the relationship between Beatrice and her older sister, Kate. While Kate is definitely a “right-side up” kind of girl, she encourages her sister to be herself and offers friendship when it’s needed.
This is a lovely book for kids just venturing into chapter books, whether it’s being read aloud to them or they’re tackling it themselves. At the start of the book, there’s fun, black and white illustrations on every page to help draw the listener in. And for new readers, the small amount of text in the first chapter means they should be able to finish it quickly, giving them the confidence to read on. The pictures continue right to the end of the book, adding a sense of fun that perfectly complements Beatrice’s character.
Reviewed by Carissa Mason