My horrible cousins and other stories

Buy the book from Five Senses Education
Published 2009
ISBN 978-1-921454-72-1

The 2nd of a collection of three volumes of ten short stories, the 1st being Killer Virus, and the 3rd Space Footy. These stories of particular interest to girl readers aged 9–13, with accompanying notes for teachers.

This collection is particularly timely, as it balances the recent interest given to encouraging boys to read, at the risk of neglecting writing for girls

The 10 stories feature girls as the main characters — girls who are strong and resourceful, girls overcoming adversity, solving problems, being determined, being passionate about causes

The stories are diverse: written in first person/third person, with real characters and varied settings.

Stories include:

  1. The great Google
  2. My Horrible Cousins
  3. An Unhappy Story
  4. The Stranger
  5. Lucy’s Instant Spelling Program
  6. Lame Duck Protest
  7. Space Gypsies
  8. Raising Ella
  9. Bydie Bite
  10. Ferals
Recommended reading: Middle and Upper Primary
Included in the NSW Premier’s Reading Challenges. 

Reviewed by Anne Hamilton

From Shakespeare in space (with a twist in the tale) to a magician who knows exactly when to bow out, this collection of ten short stories is as varied in style as it is in location and atmosphere. In common, however, are a girl and a problem.

For Lorrie, it’s the ‘horrible cousins’ of the title story who are such irritating little stains that they perfectly deserve the comeuppance they receive. For Chloe and Stella, it’s the ruin their families face as they struggle to hold on to their livelihoods. A stranger with a penchant for cowpats makes a difference for Chloe, as a helpful magician does for Stella, but in each case, it’s the girl herself who takes action and brings a resolution to the situation. Not every girl wins exactly what she wants. Layla helps save a baby whale and gets carried away by imagining herself in a re-enactment of Free Willy. Rom’s sister is far from happy when a space gypsy named Julietta captures her brother’s attention. Lucy tours the world as a Spelling Bee celebrity and champion – until disaster strikes her dad’s Instant Spelling Program.

Each story is told with flair and humour. The Horrible Cousins has a blog-style format, while others vary between first and third person narratives. Many of the resourceful girls are passionate about causes – Layla in Raising Ella about whales; Rosie about native animals in Lame Duck Protest; Stella about her parent’s historic café in The Great Googol.

Supporting notes for teachers are available online at the Teaching Solutions website. Clearly targeted at educators looking for stories in which girls are given opportunities to shine, the stories are far too good to be relegated to the classroom. However the book seems to position itself in this niche with its unprepossessing textbook-like cover and indifferent interior design. My Horrible Cousins and other stories deserves exposure to a far wider market.

“Off the Bookshelf”, a newsletter for schools and libraries produced in Pretoria by Audrey Hitchcock, an acknowledged expert in South Africa on children’s literature, writes:

These ten short stories for girls by one of Australia’s most prolific authors, brings to readers strong female characters who are ‘strong and resourceful, girls overcoming adversity, solving problems, being determined, being passionate about causes……good strong stuff’. The cousins referred to in the title story are the older teenagers who object to everything possible on a trip the family take to Europe to visit an elderly grandmother. Familiar? Yes, our readers (in Grade 3 and 4) would certainly relate to the issues raised in this selection. From environmental issues and the preservation of heritage site to the fun of boredom and bullying- these stories are ideal for reading aloud and sharing with young readers.

 

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