Wilson, Jacqueline. Little Darlings
April 5th 2010 by Doubleday UK
Copy provided by the publisher
Destiny knows that her mother is obsessed with singer Danny Kilman, but after going to a film premiere to watch him from the crowd, Destiny (who is named after one of his songs) finds out that Danny is her father. Her young, pretty and irresponsible mother drags her out to Danny's country estate to introduce her, but Danny won't let them in. Destiny, however, has talked to Danny's other daughter, Sunset, who feels out of place in her own family, and the two become pen pals. Sunset is misunderstood by her model mother, and when her father takes up with a younger actress, Sunset takes comfort in knowing that she has a sister who understands her. Destiny is a great singer, and is all set to perform for school, and hopes that somehow, Danny will hear her and claim her as his own, even though she realizes that Sunset has problems equal to her own, and that being famous doesn't mean that life runs smoothly.
Strengths: Nicely realistic tale of a rare but possible occurrence that many children fantasize about-- what if my parents really were... The addition of another girl about her age is a good touch, since children also like to think about "long lost twins". After reading too many of Wilson's books in a row, I do start wondering if there are any competent English mothers!
Weaknesses: The idea of a council estate is one that needs explaining to students in the US-- it sounds grand to us, but it's really run down blocks of apartments. Perhaps US editions need to refer to these as "projects", but that's not quite right, either!
There is a nice YouTube video of Jacqueline Wilson describing the book here. I love her voice! She could read me anything, and I hate to be read to!
McKay, Hilary. Binny for Short.
23 July 2013, Margaret K. McElderry Books
Nominated for the Cybils by Maureen E.
Binny had a wonderful life with her parents, brother and sister, but when her father dies, the family bookstore is found to be bankrupt, they move out of their large house, and have to give away Binny's dog, Max. Aunt Violet is behind Max's disappearance, and even though she meant well, Binny hates her. When Aunt Violet dies soon after Binny tells her she wishes she would, and leaves her seaside cottage to the struggling family, Binny feels a bit bad. Not sure whether the rundown house is the right place to be, the family tries to settle in. Older sister Clem makes friends and finds a job, mother finds a job at a nursing home, where the residents like to spoil six-year-old brother James. Binny develops an adversarial relationship with neighbor Gareth, and feels that the house may be haunted by Violet. There are a few kinks along the way, but the family manages to muddle through.
Strengths: McKay also writes very English books, many about children with problems, so would be a good author to recommend to students who like Wilson. Binny's headstrong desire to find her dog will resonate with tweens who want a pet of their own.
Weaknesses: There was something distant about the writing style that made me less interested in what happened to Binny, and I was never sure if James had a mental disorder or was just an ornery six-year-old. There are comments that indicate he might have problems, and he is forever sucking his fingers, which made me want to slap him, but I wasn't sure. The ending was a bit deus ex machina.