Ugly, a book review


Title: Ugly
by: Robert Hoge
Artist/Illustrator: Nick Strathopoulos
Publisher: Hachette Australia

Robert Hoge was born ugly. Top of the range, A-grade ugly.

The true story of Ugly begins in an art class, with the perfect face being formed from clay. It is complete. It is beautiful. And it is pleasing to the eye … until … a boy rams a ball of clay right into the middle of the face. Now it is ugly. Just like him.

Robert’s memoir for younger readers starts from the moment of his birth, as told to him, and explains how a tumour had made him ugly. He also tells the story of being rejected by his mother, and the decision by his two brothers and sisters that decided his fate and welcomed him home to their family, where Robert’s mother’s rejection turns to a fierce acceptance, protectiveness and love for her ugly boy.

As time goes by, and after six operations since birth, doctors at the Brisbane Mater Hospital decide to perform cutting edge surgery. Robert has his ugly face reconstructed, including a nose made from the big toe of his amputated foot, and out of that operating theatre came Robert Hoge. Born a second time. Still ugly.

With two artificial legs, he learned to walk. Then he was off to primary school where he learned, besides an academic education, that other children could be cruel. But Robert continued on, defying the odds. He learned to swim. He participated in running races. He lived through the repercussions of messy handwriting in grade three. He enjoyed the best teacher ever in grade four and got better at dealing with kids outside of the classroom. He even found his first true love, of two days. And better still, one day, Robert discovered that he could make others laugh when one of his artificial legs accidentally fell off.

Ugly continues into high school, where Robert received a whole lot of terrible names: Toothpick Legs, Flat-Nose, Pinocchio and Go-Go-Gadget Rob, to name just a few. Robert rates each name on the origin, originality, hurt factor, laugh factor and how he got over it. Beside the negative aspects in high school, you will learn of Robert’s courageous spirit, his shenanigans and his humour that will have you laughing until it hurts.

In the final pages of Ugly, Robert recounts the day that doctors proposed to perform another seriously complex operation to make him look more ‘normal’, except, there was a risk that he could lose his vision. At the age of 14, Robert refused the operation. He decided to own his face. It was who he was. It helped craft who he is. He had become who he was because of his ugliness, because of his disability. It was him, his legs and his ugly face against the world.

As Robert’s extraordinary true story about growing up with a disability settles in my mind, it occurs to me that the teenagers at Robert’s high school unknowingly got one of Robert’s teasing names perfectly correct, when you change it from a negative to a positive. I bet they never knew that it would suit Robert so aptly in a positive context in the years to come. It was Name Number 4 – Transformer. In reading Robert Hoge’s book, Ugly, Robert the Transformer will transform the way that you see people with physical disabilities. It will help you see past the outside and into the inside, where you will see a beauty of emotion, intellect and humour far, far more precious than any outer skin deep beauty that will change and fade with time.

Ugly is recommended for primary school readers (and is a must for every school library), but I believe it is well worth reading for any age beyond those years. It is indeed a beaut story about one very ugly kid!

Author: Robert Hoge
Category: Fiction / Fiction: Age Groups / Fiction: Age 8 – 9
BIC Subject: Autobiography: general
Published By: Lothian Children’s Books
Published: 11-Aug-2015
Format: Paperback, 160 pages, 198x130mm
ISBN: 9780733634338

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Reviewed by Julieann Wallace for CKT
(Dip T, B. Ed, Author, Illustrator, Tea Ninja, Cadbury Chocolate Annihilator)

Julieann is a member of:

Shattered Souls and Dreams – Bullying

When I was a teacher, there was a question I used with kids. Frequently.

Are you okay?’

Powerful words.

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And then it was my job to listen without judgement, and to take it from there. Sometimes it was even before a child stepped foot into the classroom in the morning.

There’s an issue that seems to be escalating in society. Bullying.

Here’s the thing about bullying …
It’s a worldwide problem.


Here’s the thing about bullies …
Once, they were not a bully. They weren’t born with that trait.
They’re vulnerable people, like everyone else.
There is an underlying hurt that all bullies carry, and they are trying to mend it, to feel better. There’s something in their lives that they have no control over, so they lash out with the belief that it will make them feel better. Except it doesn’t, and they get caught in a cycle that damages themselves as well as their target.
Their behaviour is a reflection of someone who is bullying them, or of something about themselves that they hate.
Their aggressive behaviour is covering up their low self-esteem, in an attempt to feel better about themselves.
When they are not surrounded by their ‘friends’, they tend not to bully.

Here’s the thing about people. Including bullies …
We all need to belong.
We all need to feel that we are accepted.
We all need to feel that we are loved.

Here’s the thing about being human …
We’re not all the same. We never will be. Our differences are what makes our world interesting, and alive, and colourful. And that’s the way it is meant to be. It’s something to be celebrated.

Here’s the bottom line …
We live in an imperfect world. There will always be bullies – verbal bullies, physical bullies, social bullies, the bullying of exclusion, cyber bullies, etc. Schools seem to cop the barrage of blame. But bullies aren’t just at school, they’re at work, at home, at parties, at sport, at art class, dance class … everywhere.

What to do …
Let’s get off the blame-game merry-go-round. There are too many bruised and broken souls and a trail of irreparable destruction from bullying. And death.


It’s time to make a change, for the bullied, and the bully.
To date, we have tried to focus on the bully exclusively, with limited success.
We have tried to give the bullied strategies to stop the bullying, with limited success.     It’s time to look around. What do you see?
They have the power to change everything. Everything.

There’s a saying for when something bad happens –

“Look for the helpers, there’s always helpers!”

Let’s apply it to bullying situations –

“Look for the bystanders, there’s always bystanders!”

Here’s the thing about bystanders – you have already seen them in action … they are the heroes …

Have you ever watched a sportsperson pull a team member away from a fight? That’s a bystander.
Have you ever watched a sportsperson touch an angry team mate’s shoulder and told them to let it go, and remove them from the situation? That’s a bystander.
Have you ever watched a team gather around one of their own players and remove them from the volatility of the situation? That’s a bystander.
That’s what bystanders do. And it’s about distraction, diffusing a volatile situation, dispelling the destructive energy aimed at another person.

A bystander can be anyone. They can be the bully’s friend. They can be the bullied’s friend. They’re standing by. Observing.

It’s time to take action.

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But here’s another less well-known fact about bystanders
If there’s a group of people, less of them will step in to help. Why? It’s called the ‘bystander effect’. And it’s a social phenomenon.
People don’t like to step out of their comfort zone, in front of others.
People think that someone will do something first, and they wait for others to take that step.


Here’s the thing about schools …
Education empowers. Schools and teachers work with dedication to help our children. Always. We have the ‘High Five’ strategy to deal with bullies. Children know what bully behaviour looks and feels like. But now we need to educate our kids about the “bystander effect”. We need to tell them not to wait for another person to do something – because that person is waiting for someone else, which leads to nobody helping.

We need to encourage others to step boldly. STEP. BOLDLY. Be courageous.

I was helping at a party once. It was full of teenagers. There was a magnificent creation of birthday cupcakes and the happy birthday song was sung. But then, no one came forward to take a cupcake to eat. How strange …

I’m an observer, an analyser, a problem solver. I knew there was nothing wrong with the cupcakes. The problem wasn’t the cupcakes, it was a social entity.
I watched as one brave soul stepped forward and took a cupcake, and guess what, so did the others.

It takes just one person to step out of their comfort zone. Step boldly. 

Here’s the thing about the responsibility of being part of the human race …
It’s about looking out for your mates. It’s about knowing what is right and wrong and taking a stand. Bullying is always wrong. Everyone knows that. 

Here’s the thing about accountability …

We all have a choice. What will you choose?
I encourage you to step boldly, if you are a bystander, if it is safe for you to do so. If not, call for help. Don’t expect someone else to do it.

To the bully and the bullied … helpers are everywhere … reach out.

And please ask your own kids – 



Julieann Wallace
(Dip T, B. Ed, multiple-published author, illustrator, tea ninja, Cadbury chocoholic)

Darth is the new fish on the block. And there’s a gang with a leader who is not so nice. There’s a bystander. Can he change the outcome of Darth’s plight?
Dedicated to Steve Jobs.

Purchase a copy of Darth (published by Little Steps Publishing), at online bookstores, or get a signed copy at and download the FREE 37 page teaching resource pack at free-darth-teaching-resources-37-pages 





LOUIS I King of the Sheep, book review


LOUIS I king of the sheep
Written & Illustrated by Olivier Tallec
Published by Enchanted Lion Books

What would you do if a crown landed at your feet? There’s a good chance you would pick it up and put it on, just to see how it looked and felt. With a crown on his head, Louis the sheep knows just what kind of king he would be: regal, erudite, and all powerful. He feels perfectly suited to the royal life, but perhaps he shouldn’t get too comfortable, since winds have a way of blowing…


LOUIS, the humble sheep, stands alone on the top of a windy hill, while others graze in the calm, protected valley below. The wind produces a crown, blue in colour. Louis, uncertain of it at first, picks it up and places it onto his head. All of a sudden, Louise the sheep, can stand on two legs. His back is straighter and his chin lifted up. And so it was one windy day that Louise the sheep thereby became LOUIS I, King of the Sheep! He goes on an imaginative trip, and sources a scepter, a throne, a grand king’s bed and addresses his people as a good king should. As self-imposed power propels him to self-imposed greatness, his once sheep paddock surrounds become a grand kingdom of pleasure, importance and command. But … power is a dangerous thing.

LOUIS I is a tale of power and greatness that is not earned, but given, accidentally as it would happen. As the story unfolds, Louis takes his self-imposed power too far and banishes all those who do not look like him from his kingdom—a dark and sinister twist in the story. But then, upon another windy day … Louis I, King of the Sheep, becomes the sheep once again…


Author and Illustrator, Olivier Tallec, has created a book of mammoth textual depth as well as captivating illustrations that complements the mood, humour and the seriousness of the story. When I first read through the story, I was enchanted by the elaborate fantasy of the fairytale-like King that was being woven into the first part of the story, but then became horrified when Louis I, the King of Sheep, segregated the fold according to wool colour. Welcome to the high effective and perfectly placed plot twist the evokes emotion from the deepest part of your being! My rescuing and compassionate self wanted to shout out at him, “You can’t do that—we are all the same! That is a hideous thing to do!” And I wanted to cry as I related it to our human race. At first, I didn’t want to write a review about the story because it had deeply affected me as I affiliated it with racism. But now, I applaud Olivier Tallec. By manipulating LOUIS I, King of the Sheep, to drive out the sheep that did not look like him, he opens eyes to how people can be judged, if it is allowed. Olivier Tallec shows us how abhorrent the act of judging others is.

Cleverly, there is another level to the story – a statement about power, and how it can be misused as one thinks that they are mightier than thou. I smiled as a great sense of victory took hold when Louis I crown was blown off his head and he would have to return to the sheep fold … but what of the crown that has landed atop of the wolf’s head? Can an object really give you power in your own eyes, and the eyes of others?

LOUIS I is a truly rare and thought provoking book. I had a strong reaction to the story-line because of my own knowledge and experience of the world. Will children also react with the same deep feeling? This book demands conversation and debate. It leads the reader to comprehension with depth, if they choose. It is certainly a book with a huge potential for use in educational institutions (primary and secondary years) as it warrants analysis and questioning, a discussion on power, morals, and will lend to the teaching pedagogy of creating a thinking and questioning generation of children.

Title: LOUIS I king of the sheep
Author & Illustrator: Olivier Tullec
Publisher: Enchanted Lion Books
Publication Date: December 2015
Format: hardcover
ISBN: 9781592701858
Type: Picture Book
Page Count: 40

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Reviewed by Julieann Wallace for CKT Book Reviews
(Dip T, B. Ed, Published Author, Illustrator, Tea Ninja, Cadbury Chocolate Annihilator)

Julieann is a member of:

Circle, a book review


Title: Circle
by: Jeannie Baker
Publisher: Walker Books

‘In a place where mud and sand become sea,
a godwit with white wing patches flies up with his flock.
The moment is right for the long journey north.’

A boy lies on his bed, a wheelchair beside him. His only wish is to fly. His mother wheels him to the beach, where the mud and sea become sand, and with his binoculars, he observes a flock of godwits.

One particular godwit with white wing patches catches his eye, and we leave the boy on the beach and follow the godwit on the long journey north, following an ancient invisible pathway. The journey is not all smooth going as the birds discover that their usual landscape has changed into a human-scape concrete jungle of buildings and roads, and they are forced to find another place to refuel before they take flight again toward their northerly destination.

There, the godwit with white wing patches finds a mate, and soon they have four perfect eggs, and then four newly hatched chicks until the hungry fox appears. Only one chick survives by disappearing into the colours of the land…


The days grow cold and finding food is harder. The time is right, and the flock of godwits leave as one, following an ancient invisible pathway high above the clouds back to the place where mud and sand become sea. A boy chases a dog on the beach, his crutches left on the sand. He still has one wish, and that is to fly.

Circle, written and illustrated by Jeannie Baker, is a feast of visual colour and art that is graced with her distinctive illustrating style of genius. Her story flows like the gentle movement of a bird’s wings and glides with smoothness and peace, filling the reader with wonder at how godwits continue to follow the ancient visible pathway, generation after generation, even as their landmarks disappear in our ever changing world. The Author’s Note and Godwit Migration Map are valuable additions at the end of the book, and feed hungry minds of those who want to know more about these amazing birds that make the longest unbroken journey of any animal in the world.

Format: Hardback
Publisher: Walker Books
Published: 24 May 2016
Pages: 48
For Ages: 8 – 12 years
ISBN: 978-1-4063-3801-0


Reviewed by Julieann Wallace
for CKT Book Reviews

Julieann is a member of: