Realistic fiction for girls : Series Spotlight “The Casson Family” by Hillary Mckay

A while back I set myself a goal of blogging about any wonderful series or authors I was discovering or rediscovering to meet the seemingly insatiable desire of some of my 10+ students for books similar to Jacqueline Wilson and Cathy Cassidy. These girls love realistic fiction with heart, that talk about families, friendships and relationships. They prefer realism to fantasy and don’t mind if things get a bit gritty – in fact if the lives of the characters are totally different to their own then all the better.

Sadly blogging has been hard work this term and although I have read books that fit this bill perfectly, up until now I hadn’t had any free time to reflect on them let alone write something. My school and library has upgraded our Library Management System and implemented an ebook lending platform. Both things took a lot of time but more importantly…energy!

Last night I had the pleasure of finishing the 5th book in a wonderful series by English Author Hilary Mckay. The series is the Casson Family.

When I read the first book Saffy’s Angel I really did not know what to expect, however I was completely swept away with these stories and have thought about the characters and their family dynamic long after I closed each book. There are so many layers to the relationships between the members of this family and their friends. The characters in these books feel so real that after reading each book you feel like you have been a part of their lives, sitting in their kitchen with a cup of tea listening in to their conversations, and you wish you could spend more time with them. As I read these books, I could imagine girls of 10 enjoying them now – perhaps not understanding everything but this wouldn’t affect their reading pleasure. These are the sort of books that deserve to be owned, loved and reread often as the owner grows up. I can see that many subtle ideas and feelings will become apparent to the reader as she matures and has experiences of her own. In fact I can almost guarantee that in re-reading these, a year or so apart, the reader will have new insights into the feelings of the characters and what is going on behind the scenes. Reading the stories reminded me of all sorts of things I felt growing up but the book felt just as real looking at it from the Mother’s point of view at this other end of my life (I felt I had a lot in common with her and not just because she calls everyone Darling!).

It will be interesting to see how my students find these. They are eccentrically English and it takes  a little bit to get into the groove. These books deserve to be savoured in a long sitting (by the fire in winter on a rainy afternoon or under a tree in a gentle breeze in summer…definitely not to be read in a rush or in snatches!) One of my students has read Saffy’s Angel on my recommendation and loved it. Somehow I knew she was the kind of girl that would – she is 10, quite mature, a bit of a thinker and passionate about what she likes. This is more a thinking/feeling girls series than JW in my opinion. I now need to read Hillary’s other series The Exiles.

The Casson Family books in order:

  1. Saffy’s Angel, 2001
  2. Indigo’s star, 2003
  3. Permanent Rose, 2005
  4. Caddy ever after, 2006
  5. Forever Rose, 2007
  6.  Caddy’s world, 2011 (This is a prequel).

The stories are self contained and although there is a lovely feeling of familiarity from having read them in order, it isn’t absolutely necessary to do so. Book synopsis for each book taken from Goodreads.com

Saffy’s Angel:

saffy

Goodreads: Saffron’s two sisters, Cadmium and Rose, and her brother Indigo were all named from a color chart by their mother Eve, a fine-arts painter. When Saffron, known as Saffy, discovers that her name is not on the chart, it soon leads to another discovery. She has been adopted.

Life in the Banana House, as their home is called, is never dull. Caddy, the eldest, is taking driving lessons from an instructor who happens to be a very attractive young man. Indigo dreams up ways, sometimes quite dangerous, to conquer fear. Rose, the youngest, has learned how to get her own way without upsetting the other. As for Saffy, all she remembers from when she was very small is a stone angel in a garden in Italy. With the help of a newfound friend, Saffy sets out on an adventurous and sometimes hilarious search for her angel.

Indigo’s star:

indigo

Goodreads: Indigo, having just recovered from a bout of [glandular fever], must return to school after missing an entire [term]. Only his younger sister and loyal sidekick, Rose, knows why he’s dreading it so much. As it turns out, the school bullies are eagerly awaiting Indigo’s return so that they can pick up where they left off—flushing his head in the toilet. But Indigo hasn’t counted on meeting Tom, an American student who is staying with his grandmother in England for the year. With his couldn’t-care-less attitude and rock-and-roll lifestyle, Tom becomes Indigo’s ally, and together they work to take back the school.

Meanwhile, eight-year-old Rose is desperately trying to avoid wearing horrible glasses, nineteen-year-old Caddy is agonizing over her many suitors, Saffy is working overtime with her best friend, Sarah, to protect Indigo from the gang, and with their father, Bill, in London at his art studio, their mother, Eve, is just trying to stay on top of it all!.

Permanent Rose:

permanent

Goodreads:Feisty Rose takes center stage as the highly original Casson family faces a long, hot summer. As usual, things are a bit chaotic. Eldest daughter Caddy is now engaged to darling Michael, and she’s not altogether sure she likes it. Saffy and Sarah are on a mission to find Saffy’s biological father (while cultivating hearts of stone). Indigo is cautiously beginning a friendship with a reformed bully, who desparately wants to feel like part of the Casson family. Rose, while missing Tom (who none of them have heard from) dreadfully, enters into a life of petty crime, shoplifting small items until her misadventures nearly bring disaster. An accidental trip to London and a visit with Rose’s father lead to a startling revelation, but through it all Rose’s single-minded determination to find Tom remains as fierce as it is hopeless. Or is it?

Caddy ever after:

caddy

Goodreads: Love is in the air for the Casson family! Four hilarious, endearing tales unfold as Rose, Indigo, Saffy, and Caddy each tell their intertwining stories. Rose begins by showing how she does special with her Valentine’s card for Tom in New York. Not to be outdone, Indigo has his own surprise in store for the Valentine,s Day disco at school. For her part, Saffy has an unusual date in a very, very dark graveyard, and is haunted by a balloon that almost costs her her best friend.

But it is Caddy who dares everything — as she tells all about love at first sight when you have found the Real Thing. Unfortunately the Real Thing is not darling Michael. What is Rose going to do?

Forever Rose:

foreverrose

Author website: As Christmas approaches, eleven-year-old Rose, the youngest member of the eccentric Casson family, discovers that life is filled with both catastrophic problems and wonderful surprises.

Caddys world:

caddysworld

Go back in time… Caddy is 12, grappling with school, best friends, first boy friends, younger siblings and the unexpected arrival of one baby Permanent Rose, a little sooner than expected. While baby Rose lies in critical condition in hospital, life goes on in the unpredictable, colourful Casson household. {I haven’t read this one yet, I’m saving it!}.

Author website: www.hillarymckay.co.uk

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