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.
Primary School Confidential: Confessions From the Classroom
by Mrs Woog
Published by Allen & Unwin
on March 23rd 2016
Source: Allen & Unwin
Genres: Non-fiction, Humour
ISBN: 1760113735, 9781760113735
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.