21/02/2012

Permanent Rose (by Hilary McKay)

Not having any children at home any more, it's not often that I start reading children's books by authors I have not previously come across. A notable exception is Hilary McKay. I read her excellent 'Saffy's Angel' about the eccentric Casson family last August, following the recommendation of another blogger. I followed that by reading the sequel, 'Indigo's Star', a few months later.

Intrigued by the delightful Casson family I bought the third in the series, 'Permanent Rose' in January, and have just finished reading it. This volume is primarily about the youngest child, eight-year-old Rose, who is going through rather a difficult stage. She is upset that her good friend Tom, who returned to America in a hurry at the end of the second book, has not been in touch. She's also worried about her brother Indigo making friends with a reformed bully, and she's afraid that her big sister Caddy will break off her engagement to the lovely Michael. She misses her dad, too, who lives in London with his new girlfriend.

Rose is quite independent, and an excellent artist, but has some rather dubious ideas about right and wrong, which are challenged in this book by an unlikely source.

I suppose there's not much plot, really, but there are several inter-twining stories that weave around the family dynamics, alongside Rose's ongoing determination to see Tom again. The charm of this series is in the characters, who seem more believable all the time despite their eccentricities. Their chaotic household has none of the usual home comforts, but attracts an eclectic mixture of visitors.

I also like the positive underlying acceptance of children with physical disabilities (one of the closest family friends gets around in a wheelchair) and those who have learning problems (Rose struggles to read more than the simplest words, and Indigo's new friend is far from bright). There's humour, too; a gentle pervading lightness, and a few places where I almost chuckled out loud.

I was a little puzzled at one relatively minor situation in the book - that of Rose's father Bill having put all his children on his passport. This practice has not been allowed in the UK since 1998. The book was published in 2005 so it's theoretically possible that Rose's father could have done this shortly after she was born; however the implication is that she can remember him doing so. It will seem odd to today's children for whom this has never been an option, but will have to be taken in historical context.

The writing of this book is brisk and sympathetic. I'm enjoying reading this series in order, but 'Permanent Rose' stands alone so it's not necessary to have read anything else about the Casson family before this.

Definitely recommended to anyone over the age of about seven or eight, including parents.

1 comment:

Jenn M said...

Thanks for the review. I must admit, it has been quite a while since I have read any books intended for so young an audience. However, I do really like the flow of your reviews. In fact, I, like so many others do quite a bit of writing as well, and am working on some young adult work. So, your review caught my eye. (to help me see how writing for different age groups can be seen by a more learned reader). At any rate, I also have a blog. While I do not generally discuss by writing on the blog, if you would like to swing by and take a look at my blog, I'd be honored. Here's a link: theramblinreviewer.blogspot.com Thanks!