Tag Archives: Jacqueline Wilson read alike

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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Realistic fiction for girls : Author Spotlight – Kate Maryon

Finding books that are similar to Jacqueline Wilson has been a project for me. I have a group of year 6 girls who love JW and are desperate for read alikes. These students love realistic fiction with plenty of family, friendship and relationship drama. My library collection was sorely lacking in complete sets of alternative series or collections by similar authors to offer these girls.  I will be posting about the authors and series I have now sourced, have read and can heartily recommend:

Kate Maryon: I literally stumbled across Kate’s first book Shine at 3.30am one morning when I was unable to sleep and had finished the ebook I was currently reading on my iPad. (I find reading in the night helps me sleep and being able to switch the text to white on a black background with the brightness turned right down, means I don’t disturb my husband!) I was scrolling through the suggested reads in the Kindle Store and saw the cover which had instant impact. I downloaded the story, started to read and was immediately hooked.

Kate Maryon writes books about ordinary girls, like you, who find themselves facing extraordinary, real life situations. She hopes her characters will take you on a journey, a kind of exploration, so you’ll end up thinking, what would my life be like if this thing happened to me? Age Range: 9-12” Source: Girls heart books [blog]

Kate’s books cover some gritty and heartwrenching topics, but this seems to be what my readers are looking for. In many cases they are looking for stories about girls whose lives are sharply different to their own, but where they feel some empathy with the characters. There is always the chance, that for a few readers, they might be looking for their own experiences in a book.

I found Shine heartwrenching and real. I have all 4 books below and can’t wait to get them onto shelves and into hands! These are perfect for readers in the 9-12 age range.

katemaryionshine

Shine by Kate Maryon. Published by HarperCollins 2010.

From Goodreads: Twelve-year-old Tiff loves her mom, Carla, who is glitzy and fun and always coming home with shiny new amazing stuff. The trouble is, Tiff’s mom doesn’t buy things, she takes them. The fact is, Tiff’s mom is a thief. When Carla gets caught, Tiff’s shiny life is ruined. She’s packed off to a remote island to live with Carla’s family. A family her mom never even talks about and that Tiff has never even met! How can she survive in this dull, dull place? But the island of Sark isn’t as awful as Tiff imagined it would be. The islanders are kind and honest and she’s happy spending time with them. So three months later, when it’s finally time for her mom to join her, Tiff can’t help feeling more than a little bit worried.

millionangels

 

A million Angels by Kate Maryon. Published by HarperCollins, 2011.

From Goodreads: DAD GOES TO WAR IN AFGHANISTAN, JEMIMA HAS BATTLES OF HER OWN
“We talk about everything, Dad and me. About all the mysteries inside of us. About all our wonderings of the world. But tomorrow my dad goes to war. Then what will I do?”

Jemima’s dad’s in the Army and he’s off to Afghanistan again for six whole months. Her mum’s about to have another baby and hasn’t got the energy to worry about anything else. Granny is staying to help out, but her head is filled with her own wartime memories. So while Mima is sending Dad millions of angels every night to keep him safe, who is looking out for her?

katemaryonglitter

Glitter by Kate Maryon. Published by HarperCollins, 2011.

From Goodreads: CREDIT CRUNCH THROWS LIBERTY PARFITT’S WORLD UPSIDE DOWN
Taken away from the boarding school she loves, Liberty and her angry dad are forced to stay in a friend’s flat in a rough part of London where she finds herself in a school that’s locally known as ‘The Grave.’ Without her best friend’s violin to play, Liberty feels as if her life couldn’t get any worse; then there’s the nasty Tyler boy and her dad’s depression and the gang by the canal… If only she had a mum, then things might be better – and what actually did happen to her mum? Well, there are the trunks in Dad’s bedroom and the violin on the bed and, once her curiosity is sparked, Liberty discovers a whole lot more about her past than she ever could have imagined.

katemaryonseaofstars

A sea of stars by Kate Maryon. Published by HarperCollins, 2012.

From Goodreads: Meet Maya. She has a cosy, comfy life with her slightly hippy mum and dad by the sea in Cornwall. But as an only child, Maya feels smothered by her parents’ love and longs to be a given more freedom and independence; but what Maya wants more than anything is a sister.

Meet Cat. She’s never known her dad and her mum’s an alcoholic and is not capable of looking after herself, let alone her 11 year old daughter. Cat’s spent her life protecting her mum and keeping some dark secrets; all she wants is to be left alone.

But Cat and Maya’s worlds collide when Cat is taken into care and Maya’s parents make the life-changing decision to adopt her. Maya can’t wait to welcome Cat into the family and hopes that by having a sister, her parents might learn to ‘chill out’ and give Maya a bit more freedom. But Cat is angry and resentful and resists Maya’s attempts at friendship and soon Maya’s idea of a perfect family is blown out of the water.

As tensions rise and secrets come out, will the girls ever become friends, let alone sisters?

katemaryoninvisiblegirl

Invisible girl by Kate Maryon. Forthcoming – Due to be published by HarperCollins, June 2013.

I was inspired to write Invisible Girl after reading an article about runaways by Andy McCullough from the Railway Children charity. I was so shocked to discover that every 5 minutes a child in the UK runs away from home, which equals 100,000 under 16’s sleeping rough on our streets each year, that I immediately called Railway Children and spoke to Andy. He confirmed the statistics, went on to tell me about his own experience of being a young runaway and offered himself as a resource for my book.

I wanted Invisible Girl to feel real, to show how easily children can slip through the cracks, unnoticed. How readily, when love is unavailable at home, they will seek it elsewhere, walking into dangerous situations leaving themselves wide open and vulnerable.

As well as to entertain, my wish for Invisible Girl, and all my books, is that it speaks to the children who, like me when I was small, find themselves standing in the shadows facing overwhelming difficulty without support. I hope to hold their hands whilst pointing them toward safety, toward getting the help they need and developing a toolkit for self-care. I want to speak to the loved children too, to inspire compassion and understanding, an appreciation for what they have.

Our streets will continue to make cold hard beds until we can end this sleepy cycle of poverty and abuse that turns runaway children into homeless adults. Against all odds, both Andy and I managed to climb out of our childhood difficulty and create healthy adult lives. Sadly, we are the exception to the rule.” source: Author website.

Book trailer:


LINKS:

  • Author website: http://katemaryon.co.uk (This is a fantastic website – full of resources: extracts from the books, video, images, quotes etc)
  • Author blogging with other women writers who write for girls: http://girlsheartbooks.com – this blog is aimed at age 8-14 readers and is worth following if you are interested in hearing about the latest writing from authors like Joanna Nadin, Sophia Bennett, Kate Maryon, Frances Hardinge, S.C. Ransom and many, many more excellent writers!)

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Dear Scarlett by Fleur Hitchcock

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Dear Scarlett by Fleur Hitchcock, Published by Nosy Crow, 2013.

Paperback, 272 pages. (ISBN13: 9780857631503) This will be available in New Zealand for purchase from April.

From the publisher:

A funny, moving and absorbing story about a young girl’s attempts to learn more about her dead father through the objects she finds in a cardboard box he’s left her.

Scarlett and her friend, Ellie, go on a sometimes hilarious, sometimes scary, journey of discovery, following the clues and always remembering to ‘keep looking up’. Was Scarlett’s dad a thief? Was he a spy? And what does it mean to be his daughter?

Fleur Hitchcock is a great new voice in children’s literature, and Dear Scarlett is a great book.

What do I think of this book?

I loved this book – it’s a heartfelt story, and will have you on the verge of tears one minute and laughing out loud the next. This book couldn’t have arrived at a better time for me. I seem to have a large number of student readers desperate for books that they perceive as being in the vein of Jacqueline Wilson. This fits the bill nicely – it’s a fabulous realistic story about coming of age and finding who you are, friendship and modern family life.

There are a lot of books and movies that follow the journey of a wife or child as they discover their husband or father does not live up to the sterling reputation he enjoyed before his demise. This story follows the opposite path. Scarlett’s Dad has been dead for many years and she never really knew him, she just has a few precious but fleeting memories of him. Worse still, everyone “knows” her father was a rather notorious thief. Mum is in a relationship with a new man who just happens to be one of the policemen that had professional dealings with her Dad. The “Step-Dad” comes with children of his own and Scarlett has to get used to sharing not only her room, but her Mum too, with a potential step-sister -“Ellie”. On the day of her eleventh birthday a man turns up on her doorstep and gives her a box of her father’s belongings.  The box and it’s contents are a mystery to her, she has no idea why the box has suddenly turned up now and whether or not her Dad was trying to tell her something. Why has he left her his housebreaking tools, strange bits of paper and other items that make no sense? Scarlett has to solve the mystery, figure out the message from her Dad and stop other people getting hold of the box.  While she does this she comes to realize her Dad was not the man she and the local community thought they knew – he was better. A long the way Scarlett not only learns about who she is, but works out how to get along with Ellie, trust her Mum’s boyfriend and also how she fits into a new blended family situation.

This will be a fantastic read for 9-10+ girls but there’s nothing to stop a few boys enjoying this story too! The story is beautifully paced, funny, sad, a little bit scary and not at all girly. Perfect realistic fiction to ladder girls from a steady diet of JW to other fiction!
Thank you Nosy Crow for publishing yet another hit!
Fleur’s earlier novel for a younger audience, ‘Shrunk’ published by Hot Key Books, is proving a real hit amongst my students, with one boy (normally a very reluctant reader) asking me longingly if there would be a series of it.

Video of Fleur Hitchcock reading from the book:

Read an excerpt of the first chapter HERE: (Courtesy of Nosy Crow Publishers)

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