Fly on the Wall cover


Shortlist year: 2021

Shortlist category: Children's literature

Published by: Walker Books Australia

Henry Khoo's family treats him like a baby. He's not allowed to go anywhere without his sister/chaperone/bodyguard. His (former) best friend knows to expect his family's mafia-style interrogation when Henry's actually allowed to hang out at her house. And he definitely CAN'T take a journey halfway around the world all by himself!

But that's exactly his plan. After his family's annual trip to visit his father in Singapore is cancelled, Henry decides he doesn't want to be cooped up at home with his overprotective family and BFF turned NRFF (Not Really Friend Forever). Plus, he's hiding a your-life-is-over-if-you're-caught secret: he's the creator of an anonymous gossip cartoon, and he's on the verge of getting caught. Determined to prove his independence and avoid punishment for his crimes, Henry embarks on the greatest adventure ever . . . hoping it won't turn into the greatest disaster ever.

Remy Lai takes readers on an adventure filled with humour, heart, and hijinks that's a sure bet for fans of Jerry Craft, Terri Libenson, and Shannon Hale!

About the author

 Remy Lai

Remy Lai

Remy Lai studied fine arts, with a major in painting and drawing. She was born in Indonesia, grew up in Singapore, and currently lives in Brisbane, Australia, where she writes and draws stories for kids with her two dogs by her side. She is the author of the critically-acclaimed 'Pie in the Sky' and 'Pawcasso'.

Judges’ comments

Twelve-year-old Henry Khoo is not a baby. His family just doesn't know it yet. Henry lives in Perth with his wuxia drama-loving Popo (grandma), a mother who lays out clothes for him, and an older sister who still enquires whether he peed before leaving the house. As Henry puts it, the view is much better without his family's helicopter blades obstructing it. Henry is also lonely and feels invisible to his school peers, more so since losing a close friendship with his best friend Pheebs. So, he channels his hurt, loneliness, creative and perceptive eye to anonymously create a funny (and sometimes unkind) online gossip cartoon column about staff and students at his school. Yearning for freedom and connection, Henry comes up with The Plan to secretly visit his father, who lives in Singapore.

'Fly on The Wall' is a graphic and prose novel that is warm, funny, thoughtful and innovative. The text and drawings complement each other to create a multi-layered world and a quirky and insightful character who learns to recognise his flaws and correct his hurtful behaviour. One of the most striking aspects of the story is watching Henry's emotional landscape unfold and mature throughout his adventures and connections with others. The visuals add comedic relief to moments of painful truths and insecurities that make Henry so human and relatable. 'You are helpless. You are useless. You are always less, never more,' he berates himself in a moment of panic when he's finally free, a thought that's a side effect of his family's hovering ways.

'Fly on The Wall' is a heartfelt exploration of the awkwardness, joy and pain of coming of age in the shadow of a loving yet overprotective family.