Reviews for Chicken Stu

Chicken Stu is on the 2011 Premier’s Reading Challenge Lists for NSW, VIC, SA & QLD. Chicken Stu is also on the 2011 Primary Focus Fiction List in Western Australia.

The German language edition, Nichts Für Weicheier, won a LesePeter (Peter Reading) award.

From Pass it On – reviewed by Jackie Hosking: I loved this book. Reading Chicken Stu to my nine year old son every night was something that we both looked forward to immensely. Nathan Luff has a great voice, he is funny and sensitive, dealing with important issues such as the death of a parent, fitting in as well as Stu’s coping mechanisms involving visualisations and cheerleaders. Nathan takes us on the ride of Stu’s life when his mother takes a trip to Italy leaving Stu to stay with his farm hand cousins, James and Matt. James and Matt are everything that Stu is not and the whole family is determined to toughen Stu up. His Aunt hides his supply of books and tries to teach him to swim which results in one of many asthma attacks. His cousins take his asthma medication and lock him in a shed and although Stu is a wimp at heart it doesn’t take long for his creative mind to get to work resulting in some hilarious situations. I would recommend Chicken Stu to everyone who has ever had trouble fitting in. This book is packed full of hope and is written with so much good humour that you won’t be able to stop yourself from laughing out loud. And there are some tender moments too so keep some tissues handy. A fabulous read. I will certainly be looking out for Nathan’s next book.

From Aussie Mad-Hatter’s Beer Party Blog: Nathan recently got his first novel, “Chicken Stu” published. Not only is it a wonderfully witty tale with some strong characters, but just when I thought ‘this is the climax; the denouement’s coming soon’, he’d up the ante. And he kept upping the ante. Again and again. And every time the novel reached that new dramatic cliff edge – that moment when I assumed he would throw an easy escape at Stu, I was proven wrong. It was brilliant! All Nathan’s main character, Stu, had were his wits, strength and stubbornness. Nathan treated his protagonist just like a worm: he never once let Stu off the hook. He just kept Stu dangling there in front of all those dangerously hungry fish. It’s a shame there are so few unsympathetic fishermen like Nathan out there, so few authors out there who are willing to REALLY test their  characters. It could be a much better (fictional) world if they did.

From Australian Bookseller & Publisher Magazine: Chicken Stu is a fun and action-packed story, which moves along very quickly. The reader gets a real sense of danger, fear and adrenalin. The lists that pop up throughout the text show great imagination. I loved the descriptions of the cousins’ ragged clothing and how dismissive and snobbish Stu is about his country rellies. Luff also features some serious plot lines, such as Stu’s panic/asthma attacks and the death of his father. While these are balanced out by the humour of the rest of the book, they remain moving and important …  [Chicken Stu] makes for one hilarious story! Great for middle- to upper-primary.

From Reading Time: When Stuart’s widowed mother needs a holiday he has to stay with his crazy cousins in the bush. For an asthmatic city boy who is prone to panic, this is not a happy prospect and his fears are realised. He prefers to stay inside the farmhouse reading but his cousins want to toughen him up. The characters are well drawn and convincing; the story progresses largely through their dialogue, which is strong on youthful vernacular. In addition to the ‘adventures’ Smart is subjected to, his difficulties–such as the recent death of his father and his own anxiety–are sympathetically portrayed and his ultimate bravery demonstrates that he is a resilient boy. ED

From Sydney’s Child: Pick of the Month. Stu is an 11-year-old city boy transplanted to the country for six weeks while his single mother (his father is dead) goes to Italy for a break. To make matters worse, Stu is a bit of a wuss (well, he reads books), he suffers bouts of anxiety-induced asthma and he knows the country is “full of snakes, foxes, crows, spiders, wild pigs and even wilder relatives”. These relatives include his aunt who hides all Stu’s books, so he has to go outside and play with his two cousins: 10-year-old Matt and 13-year-old James. These free-range fellows are the antithesis of studious Stu, whom they nickname ‘Chicken’ and coerce into a series of wild adventures that involve him fording a flooded creek, riding a bike out of control down a hill, being imprisoned in an abandoned cottage and hiding in a yabby-infested water tank. Stu keeps good-humoured throughout his rural ordeal, and eventually turns the tables on his feral cousins. However, the story is not all comic mayhem and funny one-liners. It also has heart, as Stu comes to terms with the death of his father, and his relatives come to appreciate that chickens can be people, too. Recommended for ages 9 years and up.

From Aussie Reviews: Mum is off to Italy, and Stu is off to the country to stay on the farm with his uncle, aunt and maniac cousins. The very thought of it is enough to bring on a throat-closing asthma attack. For once though, Mum is resolute. She needs a holiday and Stu will have to manage. For Stu, though, the reality is much worse than even he, with his creative imagination, could have foreseen. His aunt is determined to toughen him up and his cousins seem determined to kill him one way or another. None of his country family seem to understand that he’ll be happy just staying in his room with his books, reading away the six weeks before Mum returns. No, they are equally determined to show him the wonders of fresh air, responsibility and imaginative play. And that’s where the trouble starts.

Chicken Stu is hilarious. Stu seems prone to flights of imagination, but the reality of his trip to the farm is beyond imagining. He tells his story in first person and it is tempting to suspect he is exaggerating. His voice is quirky and wonderful. The truth beyond his dry observations, however, is that his aunt IS mad and his cousins ARE tearaway crazy. Their antics put him in real danger. Gradually Stu reveals the reasons behind his anxiety-induced asthma attacks. He’s lost his father to illness and feels that he should have done more to save him. Stu’s transformation from Ventolin-dependent city-boy to is a rough and tough journey. He has his own weapons (sense of humour, perseverance and intellect) and is called upon to use them all. Recommended for mid- to upper-primary readers.

From The Yass Tribune: Nathan Luff has written an entertaining book for young people. Chicken Stu is both funny and able, without moralising, to give hints on how to leap over the obstacles teenagers encounter, and how to accept traumas experienced in earlier years. The story will keep readers engrossed, with the text broken periodically by Stu’s thoughts on how to get out of his latest dilemma. All readers will perceive that the challenges of adolescence are much the same, wherever you grow up.

From (reviewing the German version Nichts Für Weicheier): His novel is distinguished above all by a wonderfully ironic coolness. A real ‘boys book’, it is really exciting and hysterical. A totally successful debut! (Sein Roman zeichnet sich vor allem durch eine herrlich ironische Coolness aus. «Nichts für Weicheier» ist ein echtes «Jungs-Buch», super spannend und irre komisch. Ein absolut gelungenes Debüt!)

From German Press Agency (Deutsche Presseagentur): “Not for wimps is a real boys’ book – super-exciting and hysterical. An absolutely successful debut!” (“‘Nichts für Weicheier’ ist ein echtes ‘Jungs-Buch’, super spannend und irre komisch. Ein absolut gelungenes Debüt!”)

From Augsburger Allgemeine: “Nathan Luff makes it exciting and shows how stupid stereotypes are.” (“Nathan Luff macht es spannend, und er zeigt, wie dumm Vorurteile sind.”)