Natural Born Loser

Oliver Phommavanh

Natural Born Loser
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Natural Born Loser

Oliver Phommavanh

Barryjong Primary School is a joke. The teachers have lost their will to teach, the buildings are old and tired with not even a whiff of airconditioning in any classroom, and prefects are the stuff of legends from when the school used to be cool. Raymond Bulanghagui is resigned to it all after nearly six years at Barryjong and has become good at fading into the background, a natural born follower, happy to play soccer (badly) in the shadow of his best mate and hotshot player, Zain. Then a new principal arrives to shake things up.

When he invites anyone in Year Six to ‘audition’ to be prefects, Zain practically kicks down his door, itching to be school captain. Raymond gets dragged along and somehow ends up in the principals' final choice of prefects, alongside Zain and two other nobodies. Does Raymond have it in him to be a leader? Will he and the other prefects actually survive their first week on the beat at Barryjong? And when Zain makes a crazy promise to get air con for the classrooms, will they ever be able to save themsleves and the school by finding the money to do it?


Grade Sixer Raymond is resigned to his fate as a natural born follower but when a new principal arrives at Barryjong Primary School determined to shake things up, he somehow finds himself cast in the role of a leader. Even worse, he and the other Prefects have made an impossible promise to get air conditioning for the classrooms…Uh oh.

Natural Born Loser is a sweet tale about a reluctant hero who proves we aren’t restricted by other people’s expectations – not even our own. While Barryjong Primary School is fictional, Australian children will find it a familiar setting, and many will relate to Raymond’s worries as he navigates the politics of the classroom. They may also feel empowered by seeing young people take matters into their own hands to instigate larger change.

Oliver Phommavanh’s warm, inviting voice and episodic storytelling make this book a great pick for independent readers of ages 8 to 11.

Bronte Coates is the digital content coordinator and the Readings Prizes manager.

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