Review of Untwisted: the story of my life

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Title: Untwisted: the story of my life
Author + Illustrator: Paul Jennings
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Age Range: YA – Adult
Themes: Themes: autobiography, memoir, non fiction, writing, children’s writer, teaching, speech pathology, childhood, family, school.

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I have vivid memories of watching ‘Around the Twist’ on the ABC in the 1990s with my siblings, and being entranced by the storytelling and quirkiness of the show, created by Paul Jennings.

Likewise, Jennings ‘Un’ collection of short stories were some of my favourite childhood books and 20 years on from first reading them, I can still recite the melting ice maiden story from ‘Umentionable’ (1991) nearly word for word.

Just recently I did an over-enthusiastic happy dance in a bookstore when I found a box set of the ‘Un’ stories. ChickPea (9) screamed at me to stop making a scene but she was happy enough to have the box set purchased for her and has spent several happy weeks inside the mad world of the ‘Un’ books – which remain amongst my favourite examples of short story writing.

ChickPea is a very quirky child with an unusual sense of humour and I can tell she has enjoyed them as much as I did as she keeps coming out of her room to read me LONG PASSAGES which I am required to show extreme interest in.

Jennings and his writing were a part of my own childhood and his books from the 80s and 90s have stood the test of time and remain relevant for my own students and children – the mark of modern classics. With a clear passion for storytelling, Jennings has continued to be a prolific writer of children’s and YA fiction and every time a new work crosses the counter of my school library I raise an imaginary glass of congratulatory champagne to a man who has given so much to young readers worldwide.

And now we have a memoir! Not accustomed to writing long form, I imagine this 70 thousand + tome was an epic, and at times difficult, undertaking for a writer used to using as few words as possible to tell his story and engage a young audience.

…children’s authors need to be able to put themselves into the world of kids and know what fears, hopes and experiences they face.’

Paul Jennings, Untwisted: The Story of My Life

My copy of ‘Untwisted: the story of my life’ has highlighted passages on every second page, notes in the margins and has endured a journey to the beach and an extended bushwalking holiday – for a new book it now appears over-loved.

Reading the Jennings’ memoir is being gifted the rare opportunity of a bird’s eye view at the life of one of Australia’s most beloved writers. It allows us to deeply journey inside the making of a man, a writer, a husband, a father and grandfather, a beloved public figure. It is achingly honest and reading ‘Untwisted: the story of my life’ feels like a personal invitation into the astonishing head of Jennings. We are witness to his innermost thoughts, experience his childhood and the formative experiences which shaped him … and which he clearly revisits time and time again in his writing for children.

I don’t believe that everyone needs to write a memoir. But we should all try to reflect on our own motivations, beliefs and actions in the hope that we can keep improving right up until the end of the story.’

Paul Jennings in interview: Source

Adult readers are also gifted multiple lessons into his writing process and this is as much memoir as it is a ‘how to’ on writing. Pearls of writing wisdom are scattered throughout the story of his life and provide incredible professional development for writers and insights for educators or those studying the work of Jennings.

Just as his writing for children is quirky and full of twists, so is his memoir brimming in the wonderfully unusual – even the structure is unique. The typical arc of a biography is largely abandoned by Jennings, in favour of snippets and stories woven together with his unmistakable humour, heart and compelling storytelling.

‘Untwisted: the story of my life’ is for a YA and adult audience and is essential reading for his legions of fans as well as for educators and writers of all persuasions.


‘Untwisted: The Story of my Life’

Buy from Apple Books.

By the same author:

‘Don’t Look Now’ series

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‘Wicked’

‘Deadly’

‘Weirdest Stories’

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‘Funniest Stories’

‘Spookiest Stories’

Buy from Apple Books.

‘Trickiest Stories’

Buy from Apple Books.

‘A Different Dog’

Buy from Apple Books.

‘A Different Land’

Buy from Apple Books.

‘A Different Boy’

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‘Undone!’

‘Unreal!’

Buy from Apple Books.

‘Unbelievable!’

Buy from Apple Books.

‘Uncovered!’

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‘Unbearable!’

Buy from Apple Books.

‘The Many Adventures of Singenpoo’

‘The Gizmo’

‘The Unforgettable What’s His Name’

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