The Other Christy by Oliver Phommavanh

Miss 11 and I read The Other Christy last week after I heard Oliver Phommavanh interviewed on the So You Want to Be a Writer podcast.

The Other Christy is about family, school and the struggle to make friends when you are a bit different. Christy Ung lives with her grandfather and enjoys baking with her Aunty Mayly. At school Christy is in the same class as Christie Owens, an outgoing and popular girl who overshadows Christy and earns her the nickname The Other Christy.

Christy desperately wants to fit in. She and her family moved to Australia from Cambodia when she was in grade four. Now she’s in grade 6 and she wants a real friend, a best friend. Her approach to making friends is to try and win them over with her baking.

Miss 11 and I loved the parts of the book where Christy and her aunty bake treats together. Some of their creations sounded most appetising, such as the triple berry muffins and white chocolate chip cookies. Other food in the book, like bitter melon soup, sounded less appealing.

Christy spends much of her free time helping her grandpa to clean their house and her lunch breaks at school watching over the children like her, the others who can’t find their place in the social pecking order.

Oliver paints a realistic picture of an Aussie classroom and the struggles of fitting in when you’re a bit different. Plenty of kids will relate to Christy as she tries to balance her love for her quirky grandpa, with the fear of being embarrassed by him.

My children attend a school with many students from diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds. Every year they celebrate Harmony Day and share food and activities from around the world. They have classmates from all over the world, but The Other Christy offered something else, it gave Miss 11 a chance to see an Aussie school through the eyes of a new Australian, in the way that some of her classmates might see it.

Post book activity

Blackberries, white chocolate chips.

Blackberries, white chocolate chips.

Our post book activity was to do a spot of cooking! I tend to bake more with the little brothers and it was lovely to get a chance to cook with Miss 11.

We made Blackberry and White Chocolate Muffins inspired by the triple berry muffins and white chocolate chip cookies Christy makes with Aunt Mayly in The Other Christy.

“How many chocolate chips?” asked Miss 11.

“About half a cup.”

“Oops…this much?” she asked, holding up nearly a full cup of white chocolate chips.

“Sure, chuck ‘em in!”

Muffin on plate

The batch of muffins came in handy as the school swimming carnival was the following day and Miss 11 needed an energy boost after her races. I wouldn’t say I’m a fan of blackberries, but in this recipe they were yummy and much appreciated before my early morning walk.

Shall we make bitter melon soup next?

The Other Christy was written by Oliver Phommavanh and published by Penguin.