Oliver Phommavanh, Brain Freeze: 12 Deliciously Wacky Stories, Penguin Australia, September 2020, 224pp., RRP $14.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781760897147
This collection of twelve short stories is diverse and entertaining for young readers. Written from various viewpoints of first and third person, they include many aspects young people may encounter. For instance, in The Man Who Lives in Slaughterhouse Road we have the ubiquitous urban recluse who lives by himself in the old house on the top of the hill, and by the very name of the road he lives in this man must be a murderer! Of course, the opposite is true, and readers will delight in this story. It will provide the all-important literary preparedness young readers need for when they read classics such as To Kill and Mockingbird, Jasper Jones, or The Running Man. Like nursery rhymes prepare babies for learning to read, quality short stories such as these prepare newly independent readers for tackling literary texts in their teenage and adult years.
The scenarios depicted in the stories are varied and recent, including stories set in the current pandemic using language such as “Blursdays” to depict the monotony of isolation. Characters and settings are diverse, from 80s Chinese-Australian food to Rover the first dog to Mars with his stowaways on board, a ghostly green ghost writer and an international school in Singapore. This book has much to offer and will be perfect as a gift for independent readers. It should be on the shelves of all school and public libraries and would be perfect for reading aloud.
Reviewed by Liz Derouet