Saturday, October 20, 2012
Dysfunctional English Familes
McKay, Hilary. Caddy's World.
20 March 2012, Margaret K. McElderry Books
Nominated for the Cybils by Jessalynn Gale
In this prequel to the Casson family books, Caddy's family has an even harder time when their mother, Eve, has a baby very early and has to spend time with her in the hospital. Saffy and Indigo are still rather small, and Bill comes home from London to take care of the children. Caddy is having a lot of trouble with her three very best friends as they approach adolescent-- Alison keeps getting in trouble in school, Ruby is approached to take a rigorous academic program because she is very bright, and Beth is concerned that she is outgrowing her pony, so she stops eating. Caddy's father can barely take care of them, and the baby is very ill and requires heart surgery, which prompts Saffy and Indigo to think that the baby will die and need to be buried in the back garden. The friends try to stay together, but change is part of the preteen years, and the girls have to learn to face their problems on their own.
Strengths: The new covers are rather attractive and might reignite interest in this older series (the first book came out in 2001), and long time readers who like problem novels will find the back story of favorite characters enjoyable.
Weaknesses: This is British enough that middle school students unfamiliar with some of the vocabulary and habits might get confused. (Cooking cheese sandwiches on top of beans?)
Pitcher, Annabel. My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece.
14 August 2012, Little, Brown
Nominated for the Cybils by Kara Schaff Dean
Jamie's sister, Rose, was killed in a terrorist bombing in London five years ago. While Jamie and Rose's twin, Jasmine, are doing okay, their parents have fallen apart. Their father has taken up drinking, and due to the lack of building work in London, has moved the family to the Lake District where there is work (and also fewer "foreign" people, whom he holds responsible for Rose's death). The mother has chosen not to go with them, since she started having an affair with a man whose wife was killed in the same bombing, and ten-year-old Jamie believes that if he constantly wears the Spider Man shirt she got him, she might come back. When Jamie starts a new school, most of the students are mean to him. Sunya is not, but he can't be friends with her because she is Muslim and wears a hijab. When a minor tragedy strikes the family and the father sees how supportive Sunya is, he starts to come to terms both with his prejudice and with the loss of his daughter.
Strengths: This is one of the few things I have read dealing with the round of terrorist bombings in London that started in 2005. I'm a little surprised there haven't been more middle grade novels dealing with the US bombings on 9/11. This is a good novel for dealing with the aftermath of events that cause racial problems in society.
Weaknesses: VERY depressing. Having read a lot of Jacqueline Wilson books, this one makes me wonder whether British parents are really this dysfunctional, or whether they are very good parents, so their children like to read about problems!