James O’Loghlin (text) and Matthew Martin (illustrator), Unpopular Me (The New Kid), Pan Macmillan, May 2018, 224 pp., RRP $10.00 (pbk), ISBN 978176055425
Sam and his parents have just moved from Adelaide to Canberra and so Sam is the new kid in a new school – a tough and recognisable situation for many kids. The book describes his sometimes hilarious, sometimes pathetic attempts to change others’ perceptions of him. Sam’s first person narrative, often as an internal monologue, shows his naivety and occasional maturity as he navigates this challenging situation. Martin’s cartoon-like illustrations complement the text.
I was occasionally troubled by Mum’s lack of sensitivity to her son’s situation and Dad’s passivity in helping his son. This adds to the humour but they are not good role models. But readers are likely to see through the portrayals and recognise similarities in their own family situations.
Sam finally wins friends and acceptance when he stars in the school’s 45 minute play and completely “gets in the moment” salvaging a potential disaster into great success.
The book is likely to attract less confident or reluctant readers, with its lists, dialogue and short sharp chapters, and so for this it is recommended.
Reviewed by Maureen Mann
Read Mem Capp’s review here