Saturday, December 12

Indigo's Star - Hilary McKay

After months recovering from glandular fever, Indigo Casson is about to return to school and he's dreading it - when he left a gang, lead by a red-headed boy of spiteful nastiness, had tormented him, and the time away from school has just made him ganglier than ever. Youngest sister Rose is the only one to have noticed anything's wrong, and though she's eager to protect him if she can, she has her own worries - glasses, which have made the world distressingly sharp and focused. But on his first day back Indigo discovers there's an American student in class, and Tom makes a difference to all their lives.
The second in a delightful series, Indigo's Star continues the story of the Casson family. As in its predecessor (below), McKay manages to seamlessly weave into the narrative serious topics without turning the accounts into lessons - bullying and pack mentality, separation and divorce, remarriage and new siblings, jealousy and resentment and alienation, the painfulness of growth, and love of many kinds. Unconditional love is a constant that threads through the series, and is most prominent in this instalment - it may not always be felt but it's always there. In many books for younger readers adults in general and parents in particular exist as somewhat stock figures, rather than being layered and characterised in their own right. In McKay's writing they are seen through the eyes of the child protagonists but are layered and textured, and though not free from fault are lovingly present (even Bill, the Casson's geographical and ideologically distant Daddy). As Tom's grandmother points out, "there are all sorts of families" and McKay demonstrates that what binds us together more than blood is love. - Alex

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