Book reviews by kids

Book review: Astonishingly Good Stories


Astonishingly Good Stories by RA Spratt, Penguin Australia, ISBN 9780143779261

Hannah reviewed her own copy of this title.

Image shows the cover of a book of short stories for children: Astonishingly Good Stories by RA Spratt. The cover illustration is filled with tiny illustrations of characters from inside the book: a child with an axe, a monster with a giant lollipop, a mer-pig.

Astonishingly Good Stories is a very funny, heart-warming collection of short stories including characters from RA Spratt’s other book series. The stories include Fractured Fairytales and stories of Nanny Piggins’ stunningly beautiful relatives (aunts and grandmothers). For Friday Barnes fans there is a short Friday Barnes story based on Christmas.

I like a lot of the stories but I actually liked the Friday Barnes one best. I am surprised by this because I thought Friday Barnes was too old for me and I didn’t understand the plot of other Friday Barnes stories, but I did understand the plot of this story and it was really good.

The prequel to Astonishingly Good StoriesShockingly Good Stories – was equally good and I suggest you read both of them. I would not change this book at all.

I’d recommend this book to people who like books that make you laugh and ‘myths and legends as you’ve never read them before’. Ideal for ages 8 and up.

Take a look inside this book on the publisher’s website.

This is Hannah’s first review for Alphabet Soup! To send us YOUR book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

authors, interviews

Oliver Phommavanh and Brain Freeze

Oliver Phommavanh is the author of many books including Thai-riffic!, The Other Cristy, and Con-nerd. He loves to make people laugh, whether it’s on the page writing humour for kids or on stage as a stand-up comedian. He also shares his passion for writing with kids, using his experience as a primary school teacher. Oliver has performed at various comedy and writers festivals around Australia and Asia. His latest book is Brain Freeze.

From the publisher:

A crazy collection of funny short stories. From a dog who accidentally becomes the first animal on Mars, a hopeless chess player dealing with his sports-mad dad, and a girl whose dreams are getting too big for her bed, to a boy who has had 1000 names – so far. Not to mention, the strange boy who never seems to get brain freeze (until…), these short stories will blow your mind.

On with the questions!

You’ve written nine novels – how did you come to write Brain Freeze, a collection of short stories?

I’ve always been a fan of short stories and have been writing them since I was a kid. I do love contributing to anthologies and collections, but I’ve kept some of my personal favourites for me, to one-day include in a short story collection. So, when I had enough stories, I wanted to bring out a collection. 

If you had control of the app in the first story in Brain Freeze, would you opt to change your name? 

I’m a big Turtles fan, so Donatello would be the name I would choose haha. I’m also a Sonic fan, so Sonic Phommavanh would have been the best too.

How do you decide what sort of stories to include in a short story collection? Did you have extra stories that were left out of the book?

The original title for this collection was The Odd Bunch, so I wanted to include stories that had characters who were odd, but had to step up and be brave. So, with that theme, it was easy to pick the stories that would make the Odd Bunch. I wrote 20 short stories so there were a few stories that didn’t fit that ‘odd’ description. Maybe I’ll put them in another collection or use them for an anthology.

Have you read any books recently that you’d recommend?

I loved Pawcasso by Remi Lai. It’s a graphic novel about a dog who manages to be a neighbourhood hero. I’ve also enjoyed Huda and Me by H. Hayek too, it’s a tender-sweet tale of a brother and his savvy sister who hop on a plane across the world to see their parents. 

Can you tell us a bit about your next writing project?

Yes, I’ve just finished a story called What About Thao? It’s a story of a kid who moves to a tiny country town and enjoys being the new kid for once. 

Brain Freeze is out now! Ask for it at your favourite bookshop or local library.


Take a sneak peek inside Brain Freeze

Hear Oliver Phommavanh talking about Brain Freeze (YouTube)

Read one of our earlier interviews with Oliver

Visit Oliver Phommavanh’s website for more about him and his books.

Brain Freeze by Oliver Phommavanh