Tag Archives: Jacqueline Wilson

Historical fiction: ‘Queenie’ by Jacqueline Wilson

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Queenie by Jacqueline Wilson. Published by Doubleday, 2013. Paperback, 416 pages. ISBN13: 9780857531124.

It’s 1953, the year Elizabeth is to be crowned Queen of England. Elsie Kettle can’t wait to go to London with her beloved nan to see the Coronation Day celebrations. Then tragedy strikes. Nan and Elsie both fall ill with tuberculosis and Elsie is whisked away to the children’s ward of Miltree Hospital. Confined to bed for months, Elsie misses Nan desperately, and struggles to adapt to the hospital’s strict rules. But every night after lights-out she tells magical tales of adventure to the other children on the ward. For the first time, Elsie finds herself surrounded by true friends – including Queenie, the hospital’s majestic white cat.

Finally Elsie is well enough to leave the hospital. But before she does, she has one very special, very unexpected visitor …

Book Trailer:


What did I think about this book?

I loved this! Although the video trailer portrays a young girl, the story will be loved by my Year 5/6/7 Jacqueline Wilson fans. In my opinion, this is just as good as the Hetty Feather trilogy and I am loving the authors foray into historical fiction.

The characters are beautifully and fully portrayed. Elsie’s Nan reminded me so much of my own Nana who I spent a lot of time with when growing up in the 1960s and early 70s. Reading this instantly took me back to her working class kitchen, being made milky coffees with tinned evaporated milk and luncheon sausage sandwiches on white bread with tomato sauce. For many readers this period is so far removed from their lives it might as well be ancient history – it felt very familiar to me, bringing back memories of Humber cars, wearing ankle socks and patent leather shoes, handmade corduroy pinafores and knitted cardigans. It was really interesting to read about the treatment of tuberculosis in both adults and children. I still find viewing medical equipment from this period, especially “Iron Lungs” in museum displays, creepy and scary. Being taken away from the people you loved and hospitalized in the 1950s must have been very frightening for any child. Elsie suffers from Bovine Tuberculosis, which tended to affect the bones and joints rather than the kind that affects the lungs. She and her ward mates are subjected to long periods in plaster casts and other paraphenalia and are completely bedridden. The children were often taken out into the “fresh air” and weak English sunshine to aid their recovery.  I have just done a quick image search in Google looking for black and white photos of children in tuberculosis wards in this period and they are frightening. Eerily, many of the photos look exactly as I imagined the scenes when reading this book, right down to the matrons and nurses and their hospital corners, and the rows of beds outside.

Woven throughout the story is Elsie’s abandonment and dysfunctional relationship with her mother – another character vividly and realistically portrayed, revealing her unpleasant and selfish nature. There are the usual friendship issues; before diagnosis Elsie struggles to find friends (the stigma of having an unmarried mother and her poverty means she doesn’t make friends easily) and she takes time to find her way with the other children in the hospital – being a mix of ages, both genders and from different socio economic backgrounds. Through her friendship with Queenie the hospital cat, some kind nurses and eventually the real friends she makes in her ward, Elsie comes into her own. Even so, I found this one of the saddest books that I have read recently. The happy ending feels very hard won, but you can’t help but cheer alongside Elsie when it eventually comes.

Very highly recommended, and one I will promote outside the circle of usual JW fans.

AUTHOR WEBSITE: http://www.jacquelinewilson.co.uk (the books section contains a tab with a link to an extract from the book and other reviews).

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The worst thing about my sister

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The worst thing about my sister by Jacqueline Wilson, illustrated by Nick Sharratt. Published by Doubleday, 2012. Available in NZ bookstores $18.99.

From the publisher:

Being a sister isn’t always easy… but what’s the very worst thing about your sister? Marty and her sister Melissa couldn’t be more different. Marty loves her Converse trainers, playing football, hiding in her secret den and helping her dad with his DIY. But Melissa loves Justin Bieber and all things pink, girly and pretty.

The sisters can manage to live together, despite their occasional scraps but then Mum tells them they have to share a room. For Marty, having to share her bunk beds and lose her private sanctuary turns out to be the very worst thing about having a sister. But the girls soon discover that being too close for comfort can have unexpected consequences, and when an accident happens, the sisters realise they are closer than they thought.

Book trailer:

From lovereading4kids.co.uk:

“Best-selling Jacqueline Wilson understands perfectly how the needle sharp jealousy of sisters is matched only by the strength of their underlying affection. Marty and Melissa are not in the least little bit like each other; Marty is a tomboy and Melissa is as girlie as a girl can be. What on earth will happen when they have to share a bedroom? What looks like a disaster turns out surprisingly well as the girls learn just how important they are to one another – despite their differences!”

What do I think about this book?

I’m pleased to have this book in our collection because I know this will be popular with younger Jacqueline Wilson fans. My daughters both read this story even though it was really too young and easy for my eldest girl. Both girls wanted to read this because it’s a story about two sisters who don’t always get on (in fact they fight a lot…) just like my two girls! I found it a little ‘underwhelming’ after recently reading the Hetty Feather trilogy, but I do need to remind myself that this is for younger girls. As much as this is a story of sisters it is also a story about fitting in with other friends and girls at school and in life. This is a great story for girls needing some positive reinforcement and acknowledgment that it is OK to be a bit different, perhaps a bit quirky and to stand out from the crowd (why blend in when you are born to stand out!)

Author website: http://www.jacquelinewilson.co.uk

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Come and marvel at the curiosities within – Hetty Feather trilogy

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Hetty Feather (2009)

Sapphire Battersea (2011)

Emerald star (2012)

All by Jacqueline Wilson and published by Random House Children’s Books, UK.

Book 1 Hetty Feather:

In London, 1876, tiny baby Hetty Feather is abandoned at the Foundling Hospital. She is sent to live in the countryside with two foster brothers, Jem and Gideon, helping in the fields and playing imaginary games. Together the three sneak off to the travelling circus, where Hetty is mesmerised by the show – especially by Madame Adeline and her performing horses! Hetty’s happiness takes a knock when she is sent back to the Foundling Hospital, with its awful uniforms and terrible food. All the same, now she finally has the chance to track down her missing mother. Could she really be the wonderful Madame Adeline? Or will the truth be even more surprising?

A heart-tugging story of secrets and surprises from the blockbusting Jacqueline Wilson, introducing a feisty heroine who lives in historical times. (Source: Scholastic Bookclub UK)

Book 2 Sapphire Battersea:

Hetty Feather is a Foundling Hospital girl and was given her name when she was left there as a baby. When she is reunited with her mother, she hopes her beautiful new name, Sapphire Battersea, will also mean a new life! But things don’t always go as planned…

Follow the twists and turns of Hetty’s adventure as she goes out to work as a maid for a wealthy man. She longs to be reunited with her childhood sweetheart Jem – but also finds a new sweetheart, Bertie the butcher’s boy, who whisks her away from her chores to experience the delights of the funfair! (Source: Google books).

But Hetty’s life may also take a darker path. Can she cope with the trials ahead?

Book 3 Emerald Star:

Since leaving the Foundling Hospital, Hetty has seen her fair share of drama, excitement, tragedy and loss. Hetty sets off to find a real home at last – starting with the search for her father.

But Hetty is no longer a simple country girl, and begins to fear she’ll never truly belong anywhere. And even when she is reunited with her beloved childhood sweetheart Jem, Hetty still longs for adventure – especially when an enchanting figure from her past makes an unexpected reappearance. Could a more exciting future lie ahead for Hetty? (Source Google Books)

What do I think about these books?:

Jacqueline Wilson titles are very popular with girls of all ages in our library, but believing that a lot her books were about dysfunctional families and relationships I hadn’t really explored them. As I received Sapphire Battersea here at home during the holidays I decided to try it. After reading the first chapter I was hooked – what a great story!  It didn’t seem to matter that I hadn’t read the first book.

The first book “Hetty Feather” has been ordered and is on it’s way to me and I will buy Emerald Star once the slightly smaller size paperback is available. These are a fantastic read for year 5/6/7/8 girls and they are similar to the popular “my story” series from Scholastic, but with more personality and life. These are great stories about growing up and being independent but in an interesting historical context. There are lots of bitter sweet moments about friendship, love and loss. Hetty meets some interesting characters along the way and her ability to empathize with all of these people, is delightful.