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BOOK REVIEW: The New Kid: Unpopular Me by James O’Loghlin, illustrated by Matthew Martin

| 31 August 2018 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: The New Kid: Unpopular Me by James O’Loghlin, illustrated by Matthew Martin

Pan Macmillan Australia
May 2018
Paperback, $9.99
Reviewed by Natalie Salvo

Fiction / Children & Teenagers / Children’s Fiction


We all know what it’s like to be the new person, whether it’s starting a new job or going to a different school. It is this fish-out-of-water scenario that serves as the premise for James O’Loghlin’s new book. The New Kid: Unpopular Me is a novel aimed at kids aged eight and over. It’s an absolute joy that packs in lots of jokes while also tackling a serious subject with the right amount of sensitivity.

MUM: Are you feeling better about moving to Canberra?
Mum had asked me this about 40 times since she’d told me we were moving and I knew it was a trick question. If I told her the truth and said, ‘No. Why would I want to leave all my friends and move somewhere where I know no one, there’s no beach and it’s freezing in winter?’ then Mum would get all worried and try to convince me that living in Canberra would be ‘Great!’ by saying things like:
– ‘It’s a fun adventure!’
– ‘We can visit Parliament House and the National Gallery every weekend!’
– ‘Canberra has wonderful bike paths. And a lake! You like lakes!’

This book is the fifth for children written by this comedian and broadcaster. It actually shares a few things in common with the Diary of a Wimpy Kid. This is curious because some of Unpopular Me is autobiographical and is perhaps also proof that some experiences are universal. O’Loghlin is an only child whose family moved to Canberra so it seems that he could draw on these incidents for inspiration. In an interview, O’Loghlin claimed that he exaggerated some of the scenarios to make them funnier and more interesting for this story and this shows because he doesn’t let facts get in the way of a good story, as the following quote proves.

But to be honest, none of the things on my (boredom busters) list worked as well as having a friend. Being the new kid sucked. I had to make some friends, but how? Why don’t they teach you how to make friends at school? That’d be more useful than learning that water turns into ice when it gets hot and that Captain Cook discovered Italy.

The main character is a rather likeable and relatable boy named Sam. He is paired up with Gary on his first day at school. Gary has been rendered a social outcast after an unfortunate incident. The two boys actually have quite a few things in common and Sam is determined to make new friends for both himself and Gary.

The dialogue here is set out like a film or television script. This – in addition to O’Loghlin’s sharp prose – means the chapters are quite short and easy to get through. You get the sense that there isn’t a lot of fat left on the bones here, the reader is told the story swiftly without too much extraneous information. This means it should be a hit with reluctant readers because it’s more likely to hold their attention and keep them wanting to know what happens next.

Our new street was lined with trees and full of nice houses with big front gardens, but I noticed there were no front fences. In Adelaide everyone had them.
DAD: Front fences aren’t allowed in Canberra. They made the rule because they wanted people to be friendly and neighbourly.

Sam is actually quite a sarcastic kid and a lot of the jokes stem from his one-liners and reactions to various situations. O’Loghlin also uses lists for gags and some of the points he makes are repeated to play up the overall comedic effect. For example, he lists what Sam did on the drive to Canberra and this involved multiple bouts of “feeling sick,” “nothingness” and “playing with his iPad”. Other jokes come courtesy of the light and whimsical illustrations by Matthew Martin.

MUM: There’s a study group after school. You could join that.
SAM: Yay! That sounds exciting.
MUM: Well, I don’t know if I’d call it exciting, but you’d meet lots of–
SAM: Mum, I was being sarcastic. Maybe there’s a sarcasm club I could join.
I imagined sarcasm club:
KID 1: I love staying after school to go to sarcasm club.
KID2: Yeah, sitting around being sarcastic is such fun.
VERY SHORT KID: I’m so glad I’m really tall.

The New Kid: Unpopular Me is yet another children’s book written by a comedian, but this is certainly one of the better ones. This is a story that kids and adults can relate to, especially those feelings of being uprooted and nervous about the changes ahead, even when you have two loving and well-intentioned parents to support you. This book really allows you to get inside Sam’s head and his quirky world. And when all is said and done, you have a friend in this witty little novel.

Category: Book Reviews, Other Reviews

About the Author ()

Natalie Salvo is a foodie and writer from Sydney. You can find her digging around in second hand book shops or submerged in vinyl crates at good record stores. Her website is at:

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