Children’s book of the week: Ellie Pillai Is Brown

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Here’s the spot where we recommend a children’s book every week – this time it’s Ellie Pillai Is Brown by Christine Pillainayagam.

If only all romantic comedies were as charming as this one! Singer-songwriter Christine Pillainayagam’s love of music is clear throughout, both within the characterization and the incorporation of original song lyrics, to tell a story that is fresh, funny and bold.

Ellie Pillai spends most of her days feeling invisible and decidedly uncool. She doesn’t mind, not really. Usually. But suddenly she starts to feel different. Maybe it’s the arrival of the new boy at school who inspires music within her, although he’s dating her best friend and that’s really not a good thing.

Or maybe it’s her new drama teacher, the first to really see her, inspire and encourage her. But now all those things that made her feel pushed down – her misfit style, her skin colour, her songwriting and all that getting lost in the music in her head – maybe all those things aren’t so bad after all. Maybe standing out isn’t such a bad thing…

The greatest thing about Ellie Pillai Is Brown is how it manages to both be a novel that reflects an individual experience whilst also being universal, nailing the exact experience of being 14/15 and all the beautiful-awful feelings that come along with it.

It’s a wonderfully and painfully relatable pleasure to be able to join Ellie on her journey in feeling comfortable in taking up space. Along the way she experiences friendships getting complicated, the struggles of aligning conflicting family expectations and the gut wrench of first love. All in a carefully written, very, very funny package.

Her debut novel, Pillainayagam’s writing style is packed full of charisma as Ellie’s character truly shines through. She feels real and fully rendered, packed full of depth and all manners of chaos- just as all teenagers are. Her voice, self-deprecating and littered with music references, is distinct and totally charming. It’s such a joy to be in her company that leaving it at the end of the book really does feel like saying goodbye to a friend.

If you’re in need of a sweet, charming, funny and romantic swoon of a book, this is definitely the one for you.

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