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Untwisted: The Story of My Life

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Honest, insightful, funny – a brilliant memoir about writing, teaching and life from the superstar Australian author of 'Round the Twist' and many well-loved children's books. Sometimes, rather than making you laugh or cry out in surprise, a story will instead leave you wondering about human fragility... In the telling of his own tale, children's author and screenwriter Pa Honest, insightful, funny – a brilliant memoir about writing, teaching and life from the superstar Australian author of 'Round the Twist' and many well-loved children's books. Sometimes, rather than making you laugh or cry out in surprise, a story will instead leave you wondering about human fragility... In the telling of his own tale, children's author and screenwriter Paul Jennings demonstrates how seemingly small events can combine into a compelling drama. As if assembling the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, he puts together fragments, memories and anecdotes to reveal the portrait of a complex and weathered soul. 'Untwisted' is revealing, moving and very funny. It will appeal to all students of creative writing and all those who wonder about the origins and outcomes of success – and, of course, to Paul's many fans around the world.


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Honest, insightful, funny – a brilliant memoir about writing, teaching and life from the superstar Australian author of 'Round the Twist' and many well-loved children's books. Sometimes, rather than making you laugh or cry out in surprise, a story will instead leave you wondering about human fragility... In the telling of his own tale, children's author and screenwriter Pa Honest, insightful, funny – a brilliant memoir about writing, teaching and life from the superstar Australian author of 'Round the Twist' and many well-loved children's books. Sometimes, rather than making you laugh or cry out in surprise, a story will instead leave you wondering about human fragility... In the telling of his own tale, children's author and screenwriter Paul Jennings demonstrates how seemingly small events can combine into a compelling drama. As if assembling the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, he puts together fragments, memories and anecdotes to reveal the portrait of a complex and weathered soul. 'Untwisted' is revealing, moving and very funny. It will appeal to all students of creative writing and all those who wonder about the origins and outcomes of success – and, of course, to Paul's many fans around the world.

30 review for Untwisted: The Story of My Life

  1. 5 out of 5

    LC

    I've always felt lucky to have been fed a steady diet of Paul Jenning's whacky stories as a child (not to mention numerous repeats of Round the Twist - series 1 & 2 have got to be one of, if not the greatest Australian children’s TV show ever) and have often wondered about the man behind the words. How wonderful to read the memoir of such a lovely person and talented author. Jennings’ stories range from funny to heartfelt to tragic, and this memoir is likewise raw and honest, laced with humour i I've always felt lucky to have been fed a steady diet of Paul Jenning's whacky stories as a child (not to mention numerous repeats of Round the Twist - series 1 & 2 have got to be one of, if not the greatest Australian children’s TV show ever) and have often wondered about the man behind the words. How wonderful to read the memoir of such a lovely person and talented author. Jennings’ stories range from funny to heartfelt to tragic, and this memoir is likewise raw and honest, laced with humour in between.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    First, this is a 4.5 star review. The structure of this memoir was excellent. Chapters broken up with images of meaningful memorabilia to the author (eg a pen, a portrait of his mother, a poster, etc). Not told in chronological order, but thematic headings. But, best of all in a first person, companionable narrative, dropping breadcrumbs throughout, to be brought together later on. This is an insightful and honest memoir of a man, an author and a reflective thinker. As someone who works in educa First, this is a 4.5 star review. The structure of this memoir was excellent. Chapters broken up with images of meaningful memorabilia to the author (eg a pen, a portrait of his mother, a poster, etc). Not told in chronological order, but thematic headings. But, best of all in a first person, companionable narrative, dropping breadcrumbs throughout, to be brought together later on. This is an insightful and honest memoir of a man, an author and a reflective thinker. As someone who works in education, it was the chapter titled ‘chalk and talk’ I enjoyed the most. This is a book I will recommend to anyone who gre up reading Pail Jennings’ books, watched ‘Around the twist’, or has an interest in Children’s writing.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Elijah Freeman

    I loved this memoir. I grew up with Paul Jennings's books (for years Singenpoo Strikes Again was my favourite novel) and Round the Twist and they are a big reason why I am an English teacher today. Reading about Paul's life from childhood to educator to children's author has given me a whole new appreciation for his work. I can now appreciate just how effective his writing was in helping develop my reading ability. As I read through the chapters I was reminded of stories that I had not thought a I loved this memoir. I grew up with Paul Jennings's books (for years Singenpoo Strikes Again was my favourite novel) and Round the Twist and they are a big reason why I am an English teacher today. Reading about Paul's life from childhood to educator to children's author has given me a whole new appreciation for his work. I can now appreciate just how effective his writing was in helping develop my reading ability. As I read through the chapters I was reminded of stories that I had not thought about in decades. I can now fully appreciate just how significant this man's stories were in my childhood and I'm going to make sure that my kids always have a few of them on their bookshelves.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Elaine

    This memoir is an easy and interesting read. As Jennings is an author of children’s books, it’s not surprising that his prose is clear and concise with short sentences and no tricky words. The memoir would be very interesting and helpful to aspiring writers as Jennings gives insight into the writing process and lots of (often amusing) anecdotes about where he finds inspiration and how an incident can be turned into a story, always with a twist. I read it in one day, unusual for me as I generally This memoir is an easy and interesting read. As Jennings is an author of children’s books, it’s not surprising that his prose is clear and concise with short sentences and no tricky words. The memoir would be very interesting and helpful to aspiring writers as Jennings gives insight into the writing process and lots of (often amusing) anecdotes about where he finds inspiration and how an incident can be turned into a story, always with a twist. I read it in one day, unusual for me as I generally like to savour a book and to reflect on what I have read.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I never got into Jennings’ short stories, but couldn’t put this down. The self-reflection and self-scrutiny makes for an interesting read.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Denita

    Paul Jennings is a well known childrens author so it was very interesting to read HIS story. This was a beautifully written memoir of his life with each chapter starting with a picture or photo with a few short paragraphs on the opposite page that intrigued the reader into thinking 'how does this fit in with the picture'. Of course, when you read the chapter he brilliantly explains. This was an honest, sometimes funny, sometimes downright sad account of the many chapters in his life. I enjoyed th Paul Jennings is a well known childrens author so it was very interesting to read HIS story. This was a beautifully written memoir of his life with each chapter starting with a picture or photo with a few short paragraphs on the opposite page that intrigued the reader into thinking 'how does this fit in with the picture'. Of course, when you read the chapter he brilliantly explains. This was an honest, sometimes funny, sometimes downright sad account of the many chapters in his life. I enjoyed this book immensely.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Beth Edwards

    Really loved reading this. Many of my childhood memories include devouring Paul Jennings books where my imagination would run wild. So I was very excited to hear he had released an autobiography. His memoir is raw, honest, well written and easy to read. I loved hearing about his cliff house and house in the woods - I could just picture him dreaming up plots there. It was also great to hear about his writing process and experience script writing Round the Twist which was one of my favourite shows Really loved reading this. Many of my childhood memories include devouring Paul Jennings books where my imagination would run wild. So I was very excited to hear he had released an autobiography. His memoir is raw, honest, well written and easy to read. I loved hearing about his cliff house and house in the woods - I could just picture him dreaming up plots there. It was also great to hear about his writing process and experience script writing Round the Twist which was one of my favourite shows when I was young. I also liked how he was pretty open about different relationships and how they changed over the years. Nice reminder you never know what is around the bend in life! Highly recommend!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Tama-te-ra

    I used to love Paul Jennings, still do. He is a legend. His stories inspired the imagination of hundreds of thousands of people. I’m a better off person having had Jennings’ wacky mind by my side through the second half of my first decade on earth. I have almost all his important books. Though I have never bought any new. It’s always been op shop finds. I discovered him in either my school library or my local South Christchurch Library. Loved him. Will always love him, and I finally bought a Pau I used to love Paul Jennings, still do. He is a legend. His stories inspired the imagination of hundreds of thousands of people. I’m a better off person having had Jennings’ wacky mind by my side through the second half of my first decade on earth. I have almost all his important books. Though I have never bought any new. It’s always been op shop finds. I discovered him in either my school library or my local South Christchurch Library. Loved him. Will always love him, and I finally bought a Paul Jennings book new - his memoir ‘Untwisted,’ ya next coffee is on me my friend. Those days were the days of me following the track behind my school on my BMX to get to the library almost every day for a half hour or so, and then home. My parents never had to worry about me. We were in a good city, and I’m so thankful for that freedom that allowed anything to seem possible. No limitations. I must’ve read majority of these books at least ten times over. I can remember seeing a copy of a Paul Jennings ‘Un-‘ book in a trolley about to be put back on the shelf at school. I’d probably read it three times already, but I looked on with admiration and temptation. Thank you Paul Jennings. I’m kind of over short stories now. I burnt out. I never would’ve touched a book as long as these short story compilations if it was one long story. I was honestly scared at the adept level of commitment and high word counts. At the time I read ‘Charlie Small,’ (Great) ‘Zac Power,’ (pitiful) along with ‘Beast Quest,’ and the awesome ‘Geronimo Stilton’ books which I easily finished in an afternoon. I loved books. Pissed that I never persevered through the first chapter of ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ earlier leading me to more wondrous tales. I almost have a complete Paul Jennings collection. I scored a first NZ edition of ‘Unreal!’ and the behind the scenes ‘Round the Twist!’ book off Hard to Find Books NZ. And also ‘Uncanny!’ which I was missing. I am still down one ‘Un-‘ book and that is the most recent one from the early 2000s. I neeeed it. I am also missing some of the side series of his. What the f***. I just watched the most lovely movie about two sisters named Ruth and Lucille, it was a movie chosen out of a catalogue of 200+ titles, and I picked up this book, and started to read the next chapter, and on one page a moment in Jennings life is touched by a song named ‘Lucille,’ the first paragraph on the next page brings up Jennings’ sister Ruth. lol I never thought I’d know so much about one of my childhood heroes. All I ever found of the man as an under 10 year old was a video of him at his house surrounded by forestry. He talked about writing. If I had of been interested in reading articles as an 8-year old then I would’ve learnt more. I’m still looking for that video though. I’d love to watch it again, even when I’ve heard ten thousand percent more detail through this book!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lauren Griffin Developmental Editor

    This book is a memoir, by one of my favourite children’s author, @PaulJenningsauthor. I grew up on his stories, along with Morris Gleitzman, Emily Rodda, and John Marsden. They were my universe as a child. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ So as an adult, to get an insight on how one of my beloved authors found himself writing books that lead me to where I am today, was a fascinating read. Granted, the first few chapters are a little jumpy, and Jennings admits he’s not quite sure how to write a memoir, but he d This book is a memoir, by one of my favourite children’s author, @PaulJenningsauthor. I grew up on his stories, along with Morris Gleitzman, Emily Rodda, and John Marsden. They were my universe as a child. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ So as an adult, to get an insight on how one of my beloved authors found himself writing books that lead me to where I am today, was a fascinating read. Granted, the first few chapters are a little jumpy, and Jennings admits he’s not quite sure how to write a memoir, but he does know how to do one thing, and that is write stories. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ This book isn’t for everyone. Jennings has chosen to give short collections of his memories, each memory contains all the necessary elements for a story arc.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ The only thing that got me the most, was most of these memories don’t necessarily have a point. It’s just stuff that happened to him, told well. Nonetheless, an interesting insight. If you read it, be prepared for this style of narration.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ This book is well worth being read by any author who loved Paul Jennings and want to know how his stories came about. It also reminds all of us, even the greats found it hard to write. If Jennings struggled and still managed produce nearly 70 novels. We can dig deep and find that same drive Jennings has used to capture his audience. 4/5. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  10. 5 out of 5

    Gaby Meares

    Paul Jennings is no stranger to storytelling, having written over one hundred stories and sold over ten million books since publishing his first book in 1985. He confesses, however, that telling his own story proved to be harder than he expected. He is sensitive to the feelings of people who played a part in his life-story, and obviously skims over some difficult times, particularly in regard to his marriages. Some of the most interesting chapters were in relation to his writing process, and he Paul Jennings is no stranger to storytelling, having written over one hundred stories and sold over ten million books since publishing his first book in 1985. He confesses, however, that telling his own story proved to be harder than he expected. He is sensitive to the feelings of people who played a part in his life-story, and obviously skims over some difficult times, particularly in regard to his marriages. Some of the most interesting chapters were in relation to his writing process, and he generously shares some of his knowledge for budding authors reading his book. Untwisted is an easy read, and contains nothing that makes it unsuitable for younger readers. Jennings is honest about his short-comings, and obviously found writing his memoir cathartic. Highly recommended.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kym Jackson

    A strange book, the story of Paul Jennings’ life is told in an episodic way, with different chapters devoted to a particular theme or aspect of his life, but not necessarily told in a chronological manner. Mr Jennings has had a very interesting life and he tells each episode well, though overall the effect is a bit uneven and—surprisingly—not all that humorous, though there are a few bits that made me laugh out loud. In reality this book is only likely to appeal to people who read his stories wh A strange book, the story of Paul Jennings’ life is told in an episodic way, with different chapters devoted to a particular theme or aspect of his life, but not necessarily told in a chronological manner. Mr Jennings has had a very interesting life and he tells each episode well, though overall the effect is a bit uneven and—surprisingly—not all that humorous, though there are a few bits that made me laugh out loud. In reality this book is only likely to appeal to people who read his stories when they were younger or who watched Round the Twist. I don’t think it really has the universal appeal of, say, Roald Dahl, Robert Graves, or Clive James’ autobiographies. Overall though: recommended.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Joshua Gray

    This is the greatest memoir I have ever read. Paul Jennings shows beautiful introspection and thoughtfulness as he recalls the story of his life. His relatable anxieties are offered up in the form of a beautiful introspection and self awareness that permeates throughout. Even when relaying experiences of trauma caused by his detached and sometimes abusive father, Paul never lets go of his understanding and generosity and always offers up empathetic explanations for his aggregious behaviour. At t This is the greatest memoir I have ever read. Paul Jennings shows beautiful introspection and thoughtfulness as he recalls the story of his life. His relatable anxieties are offered up in the form of a beautiful introspection and self awareness that permeates throughout. Even when relaying experiences of trauma caused by his detached and sometimes abusive father, Paul never lets go of his understanding and generosity and always offers up empathetic explanations for his aggregious behaviour. At the same time, he does not let himself off the hook for past misgivings. The real joy, however, is found in the fun and exciting recollections of a life full of success and adventure set across metropolitan and regional Victoria. I really enjoyed getting to know one of my childhood literary heroes.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Elissa Johnston

    Inspiring. Having grown up on Paul Jennings books and watching every episode of Round the Twist when it first came out, I was excited to dive into this book and was not disappointed. I enjoyed the way Jennings weaved his life through this book in an unconventional manner, with timeframes constantly changing and it was refreshing to read a memoir in this manner. His life is interesting, yet also not extraordinary but the way Jennings tells his story is. The way he became a writer is inspiring for Inspiring. Having grown up on Paul Jennings books and watching every episode of Round the Twist when it first came out, I was excited to dive into this book and was not disappointed. I enjoyed the way Jennings weaved his life through this book in an unconventional manner, with timeframes constantly changing and it was refreshing to read a memoir in this manner. His life is interesting, yet also not extraordinary but the way Jennings tells his story is. The way he became a writer is inspiring for anyone who harbours a dream to write a book and I would recommend this anyone seeking a refreshing memoir. 4.5

  14. 4 out of 5

    Hayley

    I grew up reading Paul Jennings books and loved every single one of them. When I saw that he had written a memoir I knew I wanted to get my hands on it. The book was really well written, honest and provided a lot of background about how Paul came to write his stories. It really surprise me because all the short stories that he mentioned in his memoirs I actually remembered. Ticker was a beautiful story and still a favourite. Would highly recommend this book to anyone who grew up with Paul Jennin I grew up reading Paul Jennings books and loved every single one of them. When I saw that he had written a memoir I knew I wanted to get my hands on it. The book was really well written, honest and provided a lot of background about how Paul came to write his stories. It really surprise me because all the short stories that he mentioned in his memoirs I actually remembered. Ticker was a beautiful story and still a favourite. Would highly recommend this book to anyone who grew up with Paul Jennings.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie Luca

    Absolutely heart rending and gorgeously told. I grew up with Paul Jennings’ books, there were many years where I wouldn’t read much else. Back then, his name on the front of the books was just an allusion to the genius who put these stories together. Untwisted is deeply, truly personal; I feel like the child in me who read The Gizmo 28 times needed to read Untwisted. In my opinion one of the best writers Australia has ever had, his true gift is that his writing makes you feel like you are not al Absolutely heart rending and gorgeously told. I grew up with Paul Jennings’ books, there were many years where I wouldn’t read much else. Back then, his name on the front of the books was just an allusion to the genius who put these stories together. Untwisted is deeply, truly personal; I feel like the child in me who read The Gizmo 28 times needed to read Untwisted. In my opinion one of the best writers Australia has ever had, his true gift is that his writing makes you feel like you are not alone.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sally

    I loved this so much. Paul Jennings was my hands down favourite author growing up and I was so excited to read this book and find out a little bit more about him and how he comes up with those incredible stories. This book is unmistakably Jennings, he writes anecdotes like he writes his stories - he has such a unique voice. It is sad, honest and funny and I loved every sentence. I am so looking forward to revisiting his works, now as a parent and having read this incredible memoir.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jess

    I really enjoyed reading this memoir and learning how some of my favourite childhood stories were created. Reading this book made me feel like I was sitting down with a relative at a family function, and listening to them talk about stories from when they were younger. I meandered a bit and wove across different timelines at time, but I didn’t find that a bad thing at all, I was interested the whole way through.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Cody Stebbings

    Paul Jennings’ books enriched a part of my childhood that was suddenly brought to the forefront of my memory as soon as I dove into this memoir. Every page is drenched in poignant passion and moving stories that make up the man behind some hilarious and well crafted stories that many Australian’s may have also grown up on. In saying that, don’t we all know the Round The Twist theme off by heart? A lovely autobiography from a talented and well loved author, and I’m grateful to have read it.

  19. 5 out of 5

    LiA

    So, I've finally finished this book. It has actually been 4 months...... This memoir is very rewarding and gives a lot of interesting insight into an author's life, and also just as a person. It contains Paul Jennings' deep understandings of many people and things. It is as if we, as readers, actually experience all the heartbreaks and challenges when the author conveys them through words. Untwisted is a book that forces you to grow up. So, I've finally finished this book. It has actually been 4 months...... This memoir is very rewarding and gives a lot of interesting insight into an author's life, and also just as a person. It contains Paul Jennings' deep understandings of many people and things. It is as if we, as readers, actually experience all the heartbreaks and challenges when the author conveys them through words. Untwisted is a book that forces you to grow up.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Farrells Bookshop

    Paul Jennings has certainly had a life worth reading about! It's as quirky, funny and fascinating as you'd expect. It covers his life from childhood to teacher, to one of Australia's most well-known and loved children's authors. Clever, fun and easy to read. - Read by Celeste Paul Jennings has certainly had a life worth reading about! It's as quirky, funny and fascinating as you'd expect. It covers his life from childhood to teacher, to one of Australia's most well-known and loved children's authors. Clever, fun and easy to read. - Read by Celeste

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kelly Anderson

    Interesting read about the life of Paul Jennings. An author whom I read many of his works during my childhood.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Rania T

    Arguably still one of the Australian Children's authors. Arguably still one of the Australian Children's authors.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Deb

    If you love his stories you need to read Untwisted. It will give you an insight to his writing. Some is surprising and a lot is heartbreaking.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ann Koenig

    I enjoyed this memoir as Paul was honest about his life and he writes so beautifully.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kolumbina

    Loved it! Great!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sherry Mackay

    Sorry but this was kinda dull!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jo

    If you are a fan of Paul and all that his writing has done to promote children's literature, you will find this story of him as a boy and a man illuminating. It is very honest. If you are a fan of Paul and all that his writing has done to promote children's literature, you will find this story of him as a boy and a man illuminating. It is very honest.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    So good to get an insight to the mind, creativity process, and life thus far, of one of my favourite childhood authors. And what a surprise at the end to find out who his wife is! 😛

  29. 5 out of 5

    Georgie

    3.5 Stars!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Walker

    Jennings is so honest - often painfully so - but delicate and kind. He overcomes so much negativity and humiliation, adapts and does well in life. Its a story about pursuing happiness.

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