Books & Literature

Book Review: Willa and Woof: Birthday Business, by Jacqueline Harvey

CHILDREN’S BOOK: Willa’s best old-age-friend Frank hates birthdays, but that’s not going to stop her from throwing him the greatest surprise party ever!

A gentle story about being kind to everyone regardless of how they treat you and finding the good in everyone you meet.
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Feature image credit: Penguin Books Australia

Australian author Jacqueline Harvey was a teacher for many years at a girls’ boarding school but is now a full-time writer. She has sold almost 2 million books all over the world and has won numerous awards. Willa and Woof is her latest series.

Willa and Woof: Mimi is Missing was released in July 2022 and has been quickly followed by this next story, Willa and Woof: Birthday Business.

Birthday Business is the story of Willa who lives in Cricklewood Crescent, next to Sunset Views, a retirement village. Her best friend Tae lives across the road. Willa’s best old-age friend is Frank who lives next door in the village. There is a connecting gate in the fence which helps with her almost daily visits to Frank. Woof is an albino Irish wolfhound. He is her best four-legged friend. Willa feels it is her duty to help cheer up the residents of the retirement village.

Willa, who is in year three at school, is thoughtful, kind, and a good friend.  She discovers that Frank’s birthday is coming up and she wants to hold a surprise birthday party. Others are not so sure because Frank has often mentioned how he hates surprises and fuss! Undeterred, Willa sets about organising the party in her usual upbeat “everything will work out in the end” way. Her favourite koala notebook is where she does all her planning as well as diarising events in her life.

Birthday Business is a short novel for children aged between five and 10. At 110 pages, it is achievable for most younger readers. The front cover has a lovely picture of Willa hugging Woof as he wears a party hat, while she holds a balloon. They both look very happy.

A few black-and-white illustrations are scattered throughout the book, adding to the text, including a hand-drawn map of Cricklewood Crescent and its residents. The picture of Willa icing a cake with her tongue sticking out as she concentrates is adorable.

Birthday Business is a lovely story of friendship, helping others, and being kind. Parents need not worry about darker themes which are sometimes unsuitable for this age group. It encourages children to accept everyone no matter how different we are. Each person has something they can offer.

Reviewed by Sue Mauger

This review is the opinion of the reviewer and not necessarily of Glam Adelaide.

Distributed by: Penguin Books Australia
Released: October 2022
RRP: $12.99

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