My Life As An Alphabet

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Published 1st February 2013

This isn't just about me. It's also about the other people in my life - my mother, my father, my dead sister Sky, my penpal Denille, Rich Uncle Brian, Earth-Pig Fish and Douglas Benson From Another Dimension. These are people [with the exception of Earth-Pig Fish, who is a fish] who have shaped me, made me what I am. I cannot recount my life without recounting elements of theirs. This is a big task, but I am confident I am up to it.
Introducing Candice Phee: twelve years old, hilariously honest and a little ... odd. But she has a big heart, the very best of intentions and an unwavering determination to ensure everyone is happy. So she sets about trying to 'fix' all the problems of all the people [and pets] in her life.
Laugh-out-loud funny and wonderfully touching, My Life as an Alphabet is a delightful novel about an unusual girl who goes to great lengths to bring love and laughter into the lives of everyone she cares about.


Winner: The Gold Inky 2013; The Children's Peace Prize 2013; The Victorian Premier's Award for YA fiction, 2013, The Territory Read Award 2014.

Shortlisted: The Adelaide Festival Award 2013; The CBCA Book of the Year 2014; the NSW Premier's Award [Ethel Turner, YA], 2014. The WA Premier's Award 2014

The Author Says

I had so much fun writing this!

This is the way it came about... I am an English teacher and have been for more years than I care to remember [don't ask - a LONG time, okay?]. Despite my many years of experience I still want new ideas for assignments and my wife [an English teacher also, YAY] is brilliant at supplying them. I needed a good assessment task for a year 10 class and it had to be on recount, so Nita passed on the Alphabet Recount. Basically, students write a paragraph for each letter of the alphabet, A through to Z. This sounds horrendous, particularly if your class is not very keen on writing. I mean, TWENTY SIX paragraphs? But the amazing thing is, the students loved it. I got three thousand word assignments from kids who previously struggled to get a few sentences down. Another brilliant advantage was that I learned so much about my students - far more than I would under normal circumstances.

One of my students [Alex Bamford] wrote a great assignment and she called it My Life As An Alphabet. Hmmm, I thought. That sounds like a title for a book. So enter Candice Phee who decides that she must write a CHAPTER for each letter, rather than a paragraph. Candice is very strange in all sorts of ways. Suddenly other characters made appearances in my head. Penpal Denille, Rich Uncle Brian, Douglas Benson From Another Dimension and [my personal favourite] Earth-Pig Fish [who is a religiously confused goldfish]. There is also an English teacher [called Miss Bamford - see, Alex, you've become a character in my book!] with a wandering eye.

The book is completely crazy. But then again, I've always liked crazy...

Barry Jonsberg