Book review: Primary School Confidential by Mrs Woog

Monday, March 21, 2016 Permalink

I’ve long been a fan of Woogsworld – a blog named after its author… Mrs Woog. Which isn’t really her name, rather a moniker adopted in the hope of maintaining some anonymity while the Aussie mum quips about her kids and daily life. It’s a hugely popular blog here in Australia and she has garnered a devoted following of those who appreciate what she describes as ‘making the most out of the mundane’.

I don’t have kids – or a husband – so can’t always relate, but I almost always find her posts unflinchingly honest and hilariously funny.

It came as little surprise then, that Mrs Woog was approached by Allen & Unwin to put her often-unique take of the world, in print.

Book review: Primary School Confidential by Mrs WoogPrimary School Confidential: Confessions From the Classroom
by Mrs Woog
Published by Allen & Unwin
on March 23rd 2016
Source: Allen & Unwin
Buy on Amazon
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Genres: Non-fiction, Humour
ISBN: 1760113735, 9781760113735
Pages: 272
four-stars
Goodreads

Popular columnist and blogger Mrs Woog lifts the lid on a world that's part jungle, part nursery, a place both sweet and feral, where the rule of law is tenuous at best and primitive desires hold sway over order and discipline. And wait till you see the children!

We're talking about primary school, that special place where little kids turn into big kids, where letters turn into words, numbers turn into more confusing numbers and lunchboxes turn into bacterial breeding grounds. Where teachers rule (mostly) and parents realise primary school's not just for children - that they're back at school too, just in different roles.

Having been a student during the Smurf, Swatch and Strawberry Shortcake Era, and then a teacher in tough-as-nails South London and a back-of-Woop Woop country school, Mrs Woog knew her way around a primary school and thought nothing could surprise or intimidate her, until she became a primary school parent!

Therapy for former teachers, a revelation to prospective parents, a trip down memory lane for us all, Primary School Confidential is a joy to read and essential homework for anyone interested in what really happens beyond the school gate.

Woogsworld devotees will be relieved this book delivers on their expectations. I’m not a fan of non-fiction – far preferring to escape into a world of (fictional) psychopathic killers and the like. But I make a few exceptions. Last year I read Furiously Happy by US blogger Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess) and laughed-out-loud at her tales and antics.

Primary School Confidential and Mrs Woog (or Woogsie or Kayte – as she’s often known) offers something very similar. Both have a no-nonsense habit of telling it like it is. And they’re naturally witty and brimming with irony. They have the gift of not trying to be funny. They just are. Which is a talent that many try to emulate. But fail.

PSC is divided into three parts: the first predominantly focuses on Kayte’s time in primary school and we get a ‘warts and all’ insight into her occasionally friendless and often mischievous childhood.

In the second (shorter) part of the book Kayte shares her exploits as a primary school teacher: first in a small school where she herded kindergarteners; and the second in a large school in London where she was forced to bribe wayward kids with lollies to pass an inspection.

The third part of the book centres around Kayte’s experiences as a mother and deals with school drop-offs, teachers, other parents and the expectations society, schools and teachers have of parents.

We’re essentially offered a series of hilarious anecdotes many of which rang familiar. I’m a little older than Kayte but I could relate to a lot of her tales: from her adoration of (early) Madonna and all-things-fluro; Sunday nights and the The Wide World of Disney; psychologically-scarring school camps, vegemite sandwiches (or SAOs in my instance) and primary school romances.

Her writing and wit comes as easily as it does in her blog. It’s simple and straight forward. It’s familiar – akin to a conversation. It reels you in and grabs your attention. You’re trapped, bewitched by the anecdote being shared. Of course, the book allows for longer and more complex stories than the blog, allowing readers to get more involved.

The first few chapters included some references to local Sydney landmarks which I didn’t get. It’s a foible of mine, as I struggle with specificity in fiction and non-fiction as I can get distracted by worrying I don’t know of the suburb or school or cafe or place and it takes away from my enjoyment. However, either this abated or I got used to it because I only noticed it for a short amount of time.

My only other gripe with this book was its structure. I suspect this is a struggle for non-fiction books that aren’t memoirs (which naturally lend themselves to chronological happenings). Although the book’s divided into three sections it did jump about a little – with references to Kayte’s primary school years in the final chapters and life as a parent in some of the early chapters. I’m not sure how an editor gets around this other than by pulling out specific elements and then offering the childhood, teaching and parent experience. (#Inrelatednews – thank god I’m not an editor!)

There was also a section on types of mums and an earlier section on types of parents… so just a few things which could have been tighter during the editing process I suspect. (And I won’t mention the roll / role typo on page 8 cos I’m trying not to be that anal obsessive type A person!)

So, minor editing glitches aside, I easily read this in a night. I’m probably not exactly the target audience as my own primary school years are a VERY distant memory; and I haven’t endured the experience with my own kids. But – I was able to get a lot out of this book nonetheless. I literally laughed out loud in sections – such as this pearl from Kayte’s ‘birds and bees’ talk with her oldest son.

He said, “So you and Dad have done this twice then…”

So I went on to tell him that when people love each other, sometimes they show their love for each other by doing it… you know… like, for fun.”

It was this part that he found most offensive, “You do that for fun?”

By this stage I was onto my second vodka and I really wanted to say I did it because I was nagged to death by his father and really most of the time I would have preferred to watch Chelsea Lately over a bowl of Maggie Beer’s ice-cream, but the romantic in me told him that it was a very special thing to do.

Primary School Confidential by Mrs Woog will be published in Australia by Allen & Unwin and released on 23 March 2016. It’s available in all of the usual places.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.

Booktopia

four-stars
31 Comments
  • CARLA
    March 21, 2016

    oooh I was right 🙂
    Id love love love this.

    • Debbish
      March 21, 2016

      You would Carla. Mrs Woog is very funny! I assume it will be available in the US…

  • jess
    March 21, 2016

    She never fails to entertain! When I did Acting lessons for fun my teacher always said that comedy was the hardest to pull off, if it didn’t come naturally.

    • Debbish
      March 21, 2016

      I can imagine that’s the case Jess. I think you can tell when it comes naturally and easily…

  • Ruth Hillman-Booth
    March 21, 2016

    Sounds fabulous fun, though I’m slightly concerned it will make me paranoid about the impending school gate shenanigans I can expect when Pickle goes to school next year!

  • Michelle Weaver (@pinkypoinker)
    March 21, 2016

    Looking forward to reading this! I love the last quote you included in the review. “You do that for fun?” Mrs Woog really is effortlessly funny and I think that’s her secret. She doesn’t even try.

    • Debbish
      March 22, 2016

      You’ll most definitely relate to this Michelle, especially the teaching bit as I was reminded of your book in that respect.

  • Emily
    March 22, 2016

    Bahaha! Brilliant review. Looking forward to reading this. Will gird my loins for page 8. The curse of the proofreader! x

    • Debbish
      March 22, 2016

      I try not to look for typos and grammatical errors when reading or reviewing – figuring the books have been through enough hands by now – but I do occasionally pick them up and it takes all of my willpower not to mention it. I usually don’t however as I eye-roll when I borrow library books in which someone’s highlighted typos!

  • writeofthemiddle
    March 22, 2016

    Fantastic to read your thoughts on Mrs Woog’s book Deb. I wasn’t sure exactly what it was about but have a much clearer idea now. Of course I will have to get a copy and read it! I love her! I also met her at Problogger in August and she was exactly as she is on her blog – such a warm, funny and fabulous person. Oh that typo would drive me insane if that were my book! LOL 😉

    • Debbish
      March 22, 2016

      I’ve met her at a couple of blogging things as well and – as I said – enjoy her blog. I’m slack about commenting however unless I feel strongly about something or compelled in some way.

  • hugzillablog
    March 22, 2016

    Oh, I cannot wait to read this one!! She has such a unique voice, and has the best anecdotes of all time. I’m sure it will be a cracking read.

    • Debbish
      March 22, 2016

      It definitely is and won’t disappoint!

  • Emily M Morgan (@EmilyMMorganMe)
    March 22, 2016

    A great review. I’ve got this in my pile to review as well, so I look forward to seeing if I like it as much as you!

    • Debbish
      March 22, 2016

      I hope so. I’ll be interested to see if anyone else has any thoughts on the structure. As I said, it could just be me. 🙂

  • Rebecca Bowyer (@RebeccaBowyerAU)
    March 22, 2016

    I’m so looking forward to my pre-ordered copy arriving on my doorstep!

  • Betty
    March 22, 2016

    Sounds like a good read.

    I really should have just resorted to bribing my own wayward students. But then again, if I had I wouldn’t have enjoyed so much wine 😉

    • Debbish
      March 22, 2016

      Ha! Very funny Betty. I hope you get to read it as you’ll enjoy it if you’ve been a teacher. I’m sure you’ll be able to relate!

  • Karin @ Calm to Conniption
    March 22, 2016

    I got an email today letting me know my copy in on its way. I can’t wait to read it and probably would never pick up on the page typo. 🙂

    • Debbish
      March 22, 2016

      I’m sure you’ll enjoy it Karin.

      I tend to pick up typos and grammatical stuff. Not as much from the book reviewing I do now (as I don’t focus on those kinds of things) but in a former life I managed government briefing and correspondent teams responsible for quality assuring documentation… so I’m the sort of person who’ll cringe when my hairdresser’s newsletter will include the incorrect form of your / you’re. (Though I’d never say anything!)

      PS. I’m sure I make my fair share of typos and mistakes as well as I don’t re-check my comments and proof-read stuff when I get really busy!

  • Jodi Gibson (JF Gibson Writer)
    March 22, 2016

    Love Mrs. Woog and I’m looking forward to reading this one. I think I’m most interested in the third part, but looking forward to it nonetheless.

  • Janet Camilleri
    March 22, 2016

    I’ve read a couple of posts by The Bloggess and laughed myself silly. I’m probably the only person in Australia to say this, but I just couldn’t connect with Mrs Woog’s blog. Maybe because of the enormous following. Perhaps I am just suffering from tall poppy syndrome! I’d be interested to read this to see if I like it better; but at the same time (like you Deb) I am in a very different stage in my life so don’t know …

    • Debbish
      March 22, 2016

      I don’t read many parenting blogs at all. Even in linkups now, I often skip a blog if it’s about school lunches or the like as I have nothing to contribute. I used to try and constantly found myself talking about my niece or myself when I was young… casting about for something to add. But there are a few bloggers (like Mrs Woog) who I find entertaining even though I can’t sometimes relate to what it is they’re talking about (if that makes sense).

      And yes, The Bloggess’s last book was hilarious. I really should try to read her blog as I’d not really heard of her before that!

  • Toni (Finding Myself Young)
    March 22, 2016

    I’ve heard so much about the book from other bloggers sharing that they’re stories are included but I never realised it was actually split into three sections with all her experiences as a child, teacher and parent {I actually thought it was going to be a heap of other people’s stories compiled into a book}. I’m much more interested in reading it now that I’ve read your review because I’m considering becoming an early childhood teacher {although probably daycare not school} and in a few years I’ll be a primary school mum.

    • Toni (Finding Myself Young)
      March 22, 2016

      And of course I forgot to add #teamIBOT {bad ibot team member right here lol}

    • Debbish
      March 22, 2016

      Toni, there are some funny stories from Mrs Woog’s time at a small school teaching kindergarten kids so you’d definitely enjoy that. Oh… and hopefully the London experience she shares (older kids though), won’t turn you off! 😉

  • Heather Duff (@hross42)
    March 25, 2016

    I am multi tasking looking at her blog whilst I read your review, I think I may like this and her blog! Thank you for sharing!!

    • Debbish
      March 25, 2016

      Ah yes, Mrs Woog is HUGELY popular here in Australia – great sense of humour and I love that she calls herself out on stuff all of the time. In the book she ‘takes the piss’ (as we’d say in Oz) out of private schools, having been a private school girl herself and has a very entertaining way of doing it.

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