The Accidental Diary of B.U.G by Jen Carney

The Book in Rhyme…

“Introducing the diary of Billie Upton Green,

A riot from start to finish and all that’s in between.

On how to eat biscuits properly, she has written rules,

And break them at your peril as she doesn’t suffer fools.

Billie is adopted and she also has two mothers,

And this is a normal family, no different from any others.

And when her teacher tells her mums, she needs help with her spelling,

They buy her a book to practice, which becomes this diary so compelling.

With a theft at school, and a new girl in her class,

Uncover her hilarious musings, full of wit and sass.

For a diary full of laughs and the heart strings it will tug,

Ensure you read the sublime, accidental diary of B.U.G.”

I was lucky to spend some time with the Year 6 children at my school a few weeks ago, lending them books from my personal library and talking to them about their reading preferences. One thing that was eye opening for me were the children who stated they enjoyed ‘Diary Books’. Up until this point, I hadn’t considered ‘Diary Books’ a genre all on it’s own but children really enjoy the informal style combined with illustrations.

I have to admit, I’ve never read a ‘Diary Book’ so when I casually dipped into the first few pages to see what it is like, I ended up reading it in one hilarious go!

Billie Upton Green has been given a new notebook to practice her spellings after her teacher invites her mum into school to discuss how she is struggling with them.

In her first act of hilarious defiance she decides to write a diary instead and there, her diary is born.

A new girl has started school called Janie who happens to be invited round to Billie’s as her mum had suggested it might be nice for her to make friends with the new girl.

While on their play date, Billie reveals to Janie that her she has two mums. Janie’s response:

“You can’t have two mums.”

That’s when Billie also reveals that she’s adopted and just happened to be adopted by two women.

“Oh! OK.” Is Janie’s only response.

It’s safe to say, the two girls don’t immediately hit it off, made worse by the fact that Janie seems to be getting closer to Billie’s best friend Layla, so when a theft at school is revealed in assembly, Billie has only one suspect! (Well she actually has two, but only one grudge).

I’ll leave the plot there as it’s important for an air of mystery to remain and you can discover this gem for yourself.

First thing’s first: This book is hilarious! I’m fully aware I’ve used the word – hilarious – rather a lot already (four times actually – just counted) but it had me chuckling and actually guffawing non stop. Whether it was her brilliant favourite word list which got constantly updated, her suspect spelling and crossings out which remain for all to see, her witty and sassy style or her clever turns of phrase that just can’t help but make you giggle.

As a character, I loved Billie! I loved her perceptive nature when describing and noticing things in other people. Her forthright way she refuses to do a spelling book and makes it into a diary instead. The way she writes letters to the Prime Minister about things that she thinks are important like the laws for eating biscuits and a really hilarious letter about writing words how they sound!

Now there is no doubt that representation of all kinds – race, disability, sexual orientation – is on the increase and it is inspiring to see more and more in the mainstream, but what I loved about this book is that it’s explicit in its representative intentions and exploring how this is not everyone’s normal (but is Billie’s normal) but then presents it in the middle of a hilarious (that’s five) diary book about children growing up illustrating just how normal it is.

I feel I want to clarify further because the real beauty is that it doesn’t shy away from tackling the issue of children having to explain (and often defend) their alternative family. So for that, the gay characters are not tokenistic offerings but relevant characters in one of the books main themes. Carney’s brilliant way she makes a book about children with same sex parents, actually about a girl dealing with a new girl at school is so clever: It’s about her two mum’s and it’s nothing about her two mum’s – This is Billie’s story – she is the comedy queen and she just happens to have gay parents.

I also like how Janie is not villianized for asking questions or making statements that many children would naturally say because they have never encountered a family such as this. But all the more brilliant, is that those expected questions from Janie, don’t come from a place of bigotry but of a place of ignorance and not baring witness to representation of people not like her – which she would have had if she had read this book – Which is kind of the point! (Is this art imitating life or life imitating art? Anyone else feel like they’re in the film inception?)

I purposefully haven’t spoken about this yet because this is obviously new to me as I’m new to the ‘diary book’ genre, but the illustrations are genius! Like actually, rolling on the floor laughing genius. The picture of Play Dough mum, the cake with chocolate on (not poo), the table of DIY woes from one of Billie’s mums or the pictures of lie-telling ears and eyes all left me hysterical! Such comedic thought, wit and clever quips are littered throughout the whole story which makes it hard for you to be left anything but uplifted.

I have to say, this book has been one of my biggest and gloriously joyous, unexpected surprises! It is a book I will now (probably annoyingly) champion for the hysterical comedy, important and necessary representation and for all those children who like to read ‘Diary Books’!

The Accidental Diary of B.U.G was published on 15/04/21 by Puffin Books and so is out now to buy! Why not try purchasing from an independent bookshop who will be very appreciate of your custom.

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