Title: Brain Freeze: 12 Deliciously Whacky Stories
Author: Oliver Phommavanh
Published: 1st September 2020
Synopsis: A crazy collection of funny short stories from the wacky mind of bestselling Thai-riffic! author, Oliver P, featuring characters who are all finding a way to step up and be brave.
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.
Oliver Phommavanh was another Australian author who participated in my Isolation Publicity series, and since then he has released a new book of short stories called Brain Freeze. Oliver’s book was released amidst a confusing mishmash of various restriction levels and lockdowns, and it was the initial lockdown that prompted him to add two more stories based around quarantine, lockdown and the pandemic to the book. These two stories are of a time and relatable yet take a light and humorous look at what the pandemic, and especially the early days during March and April brought – with the Great Toilet Paper Wars of 2020 breaking out across supermarkets. One story revolving around the role that take away and delivery from restaurants played in our life during these strange times and showed how delivery services had to be innovative.
I think this story encapsulated so much of what we were all feeling and dealing with and what we continue to deal with as outbreaks pop up all over, and ebb and flow as people scrabble to get them under control. Much like the other story related to quarantine, they speak to the experiences of children during this time, but are just as relatable to adults, because we all had to adapt in various ways and still are – they are important because the pandemic forms the backdrop to
The other stories ranged from a boy whose parents kept changing his name, to kids being kids and challenging each other to do silly and fun things (like seeing how many Slushees will make your brain literally freeze), the world of ghost writing and adventures in schools that are entertaining, fun and that children of all ages will connect with.
These stories have a diverse cast of characters – and it is their personalities coupled with their cultural and racial identities that made them powerful for all readers. Everyone who reads this book will find something they can identify with or see in themselves in these stories, whether it is their culture, the way they spend their time with their friends, their pandemic experience or what they like to do – there is something in there for all readers. All readers deserve to see themselves represented in the literature they read, and Oliver’s books do a really good job when it comes to diversity and representation and he combines it with humour and sophistication that means anyone aged eight and older will get something out of these books.
They may be light-hearted stories, but we can also learn something from them about who we are and the world we live in. This collection of short stories also captures Australia and its multicultural worlds, and the stories are great for readers who are confident but might not be quite ready for a novel yet, or who want a break from a novel and want a book they can dip in and out of at will. Anthologies are great for that because you don’t have to read them in order (although I do).
A great book from Oliver!