My Life as an Alphabet by Barry Jonsberg


IMG_1478My Life as an Alphabet by Barry Jonsberg, paperback novel, 256 pages, published by Allen & Unwin in 2013.

Candice Phee is a little odd, a little different, but she has a huge heart. After the death of her sister and the perceived betrayal of her uncle, Candice’s family has been slowly imploding. Her best friend believes he is from another dimension and spends a lot of time trying to return. Her penpal hasn’t replied to her letters, her teacher has a lazy eye, and her fish might be experiencing a theological crisis. All her favourite people and fish are struggling with life, and Candice wants to make them happy. She goes to extraordinary lengths to achieve this.

A heart-warming tale, My Life as an Alphabet, was a joy to read. Candice is a very unusual character, but as she shares her life, I came to like and respect her very much. Some of her antics were extremely funny, and even the way she relates her story is amusing. Jumping off the pier in an attempt to reconcile her father and uncle was probably going a tad too far, but it definitely demonstrated her commitment to improving her family’s relations. I thought her social awkwardness and inability to converse with new people without the use of a notepad gave her an air of mystery. However, her school peers just see her as really weird, and haven’t bothered to uncover the generous and determined girl inside. She is loyal and loving, and extremely quirky. Candice is a very well written character, in an entertaining, interesting and engaging story.

I would prefer my second grader to wait a couple of years before reading this book as some of the themes are more mature than what she has read previously. Themes such as the fallout from the death of Candice’s sister, the estrangement of her father and uncle, and the mental health issues that Douglas from another dimension exhibits. Though it is most suitable for children from upper primary school to high school, I think many adults would also enjoy My Life as an Alphabet.


* My Life as an Alphabet was an honour book for the 2014 Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year in the Younger Readers category.


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