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Friday 22 September 2023

Review: Aggie Flea Is NOT A Liar

Move over, Barbie - there’s a new girl rocking the pink all over town, and hers is fluoro! 

Meet Aggie Flea, whom you will immediately fall for,  because she’s inquisitive, imaginative and completely inept in most situations. Really, she’s a bit like Anne of Green Gables in that she never intends to be troublesome but somehow always ends up being so.

Aggie is ten, lives with her long-suffering mother and older teen brother, Jack, who thinks he’s the man of the house now that their dad has moved to London. 

She has a bestie called Kumi and a pet mouse called Mr Pickles, and, as mentioned, a penchant for getting herself into unintentional scrapes. For example, squashing a spider inside her maths book, forgetting it was there until her arachnophobe teacher opens the books – cue loud shrieks and a (yet another) visit to the principal’s office.

Aggie’s the world’s biggest fan of Princess Zombie (graphic novels), and Tania’s inclusion of excerpts of these to parallel Aggie at certain points is not only a brilliant technique, but one that is exceedingly difficult to manage and make cohesive. In fact, Aggie really wants to be just like Princess Zombie when she grows up – 'Except the part about being a Princess. And the part about being a zombie.'

When a mysterious new neighbour moves in next door, Aggie’s always fertile imagination runs wild with these clues; a) a hearse parked in the driveway b) moving in at midnight under cover of darkness c) mysterious letter wrongly delivered from the Blood Bank d) not spotting the neighbour at all in daylight, all clearly point to the irrefutable fact that the new neighbour is a vampire. Of course, the additional clues of an extraordinary number of cotton buds being used and bagpipe music, also indicate that the vampire is Scottish with exceptionally big ears.

So, when the local newspaper runs a competition for the schoolkids with the prize for best interviewer winning their prize presented by none other than D.K. Norman, author of Princess Zombie, Aggie is determined to win at all costs. She wants the fame, she wants to meet her hero author, and she wants to beat the pants of snarky Zara Miller. You may well conjecture that this interview with a vampire is going to be full of mishap from start to finish – and you’d be right!

So much to love and laugh over with this great new series: mouse poo rolled in glitter to mimic actual bat droppings (you know because vampires can transform!) which, of course, also end up all over the cranky teacher, the principal’s slug-like moustache (that had me in fits of giggles), the constant qualifier ‘with his giant head’ in reference to Jack, Aggie’s attempted Scottish accent and more.

 Though the humour rackets riotously throughout, there’s also a lot to be gleaned on not letting imaginations run away, friendship, consideration and thoughtfulness. I love that in a market so dominated by male writers with formulaic 'humorous' books [quotation marks deliberate], Tania is writing fresh and sparkling comedic narratives for the junior/middle grades. I’ve been a fan since Jinny & Cooper and can’t wait to see more of Aggie’s adventures. I also need to make note of the hilarious illustrations from A Yi and the brilliant (and flamboyant) touch of the electric pink throughout!

Highly recommended for your readers as a read-aloud from Year 1 or for your newly independent and growing readers. Check the trailer for an introduction to the fun.

Title: Aggie Flea Is NOT A Liar
Author: Tania Ingram
Illustrator: A Yi
Publisher: Scholastic Australia, $16.99
Date of Publication: September 2023
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781760972547
For ages: 6+
Type: Junior Fiction