Book people: Oliver Phommavanh
We hope you are enjoying our series of Book People posts for CBD! This week, bestselling author Belinda Murrell is back with another terrific interview with hilarious children’s author Oliver Phommavanh. You might remember this recent post (by Megan) about Oliver’s wonderful book Thai-riffic! begin made into a stage play. We hope you enjoy this insight into Oliver and his work! TMB
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Oliver Phommavanh is an absolute hit with kids at any festival or school event. He literally has them laughing until they roll over, clutching their sides. A primary school teacher, comedian, and hugely popular children’s author, Oliver has written a number of funny, thoughtful and award-winning books, such as The Other Christy (CBCA Notable Book 2017), Thai-riffic!, Thai-nomite!, Punchlines, Stuff Happens: Ethan, Con-nerd and his latest book Super-Con-nerd.
“Hi, I’m Connor and I’m a nerd. I thought I knew all there was to being one. But there are better nerds out there. Super nerds. Hyper nerds. Super, hyper nerds. I thought all nerds were smart. But that’s not true, because suddenly I don’t feel so bright anymore…”
Our favourite character from Con-nerd returns in Super Con-nerd, where he finally makes it into a selective high school. If he thought the competition was intense to get into a selective school, it’s tougher on the inside. Connor feels like everybody else is smarter than him and is trying to play catch up with the other super nerds, like Andrew Thompson who is top of his class. Connor’s mum has loosened up and lets Connor draw his comics like Fireproof Knights, as long as his grades are good.
Luckily, there’s no report cards after the first week of school…
As a Thai Australian, Oliver’s books give a humorous and authentic insight into everyday life in multi-cultural Australia, covering issues like making friends, being a nerd, fitting in, cramming for selective high exams and dealing with parental pressure to be something you’re not.
Kids love his books (he was definitely one of my son’s all-time favourite authors) and he has been shortlisted in the YABBA (Young Australia Best Book Award) and KOALAs (Kids Own Australian Literature Award) multiple times, winning a place in the KOALA Hall of Fame. Oliver is an ambassador for the Premier’s Reading Challenge and Room to Read.
Thanks so much for joining us Oliver!
Ten Things You Need to Know About Oliver Phommavanh
- Tell us about your latest book.
- How did you get started as a writer?
“I started writing Thai-riffic! when I was teaching at a primary school part time. It took me three years and a few lucky breaks to get Thai-riffic! published.”
- What does a typical day look like for you?
“If I’m writing at home, I spend six hours writing and take a few breaks to go to the gym and play some video games haha. If I’m travelling or doing school visits, I try to squeeze in some writing time in the afternoons, after a nice jog.”
- Can you describe your workspace for us?
“It’s a messy desk filled with sticky notes, toys and little gadgets scattered around.”
- Any words of advice for young readers and writers?
“A lot will say to read books, which is cool, but I also say play lots of games! Not just video games, of course, but play board games, make up your own games and get those creative juices flowing by having fun, too.”
- Do you have a favourite book or character?
“I’m a huge fan of Nanny Piggins, who would be the world’s best babysitter ever haha.”
- If you were not a creator of books for young people what would you be?
“I’d probably stick to being a primary school teacher or a Youtuber who focuses on Nintendo, burgers and plushies.”
- What is your favourite food to eat and/or your favourite music to listen to whilst you are working on your books?
“My favourite food is burgers, hot chips and donuts! If you follow me on Instagram, @oliverwinfree you will see all my burgergrams haha. I usually listen to Talkback radio for ideas from news and current events, and Youtube/podcasts about video games.”
- How much of yourself or people you know is in your books?
“About 70.9 percent. I usually base my characters on a part of me, such as my family in Thai-riffic! or through events that I’ve experienced or seen, like The Other Christy where I saw two girls who were enemies, become friends.
- If you could have one wish for the world what would it be?
“For every kid to feel safe, loved and surrounded by books! I’m a Room to Read author ambassador, and support Room To Read, who are focused on girls education and children’s literacy in Asia and Africa. Find out more at roomtoread.org”
You can find out more about Oliver Phommavanh here.
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