Cindy: My Junior Library Guild subscription never fails to delight me…and neither does Hilary McKay. This month’s shipment included her new novel, Caddy’s World (McElderry 2012), a prequel to the Casson family saga that started with Saffy’s Angel. This installment highlights the birth of the youngest Casson, Rose, born five months premature. Rose’s precarious condition requires Eve to live at the hospital with her, which means that Bill Casson will have to return from the peace of his London artist’s flat to take over the daily care of his children. Parenting is always hard work, but Bill has his hands full with his brood –a creative, energetic, imaginative bunch that requires close monitoring. I know when I pick up a Hilary McKay book that I will be chortling out loud before too long and I always end up having to read passages aloud to anyone in the vicinity. Bill’s cleansing of the junk food filled larder with healthy foods is a good example:
“Orange juice with bits in,” said Indigo mournfully.
“Yogurt with bits in. Even the bread has bits in. I don’t eat bits.”
Then there are the dead fish with heads on them. Surely they are not for eating and need burying in the dead pets garden…
The book is not all hilarity, however, as McKay fans well know.
Readers of the Casson series will know Cadmium (Caddy) as an older teen taking driver’s education. Here, at the age of twelve, Caddy and her three best friends are going through some growing pains in their friendship. Between that and the seriousness of Rose’s fragile condition, there is plenty to worry about in between the laughs. The Casson family only continues to grow in our hearts as McKay paints more of their adventures with her mighty brush…um…pen.
Lynn: There is nothing like the sweet giddy pleasure of starting a new Casson family story! It’s that warm I’m-home-again feeling of visiting much loved but eccentric friends. I know the book will be tender, funny, observant, slightly wacky and extremely satisfying. That is exactly what I got with this charming prequel, told mostly through Caddy’s perspective. As in the other stories, McKay’s uncanny understanding of how children perceive and experience the world is the solid foundation for the story. Every character shines including the secondary ones from Ruby, terrified of but yearning for the new school, throwing away her library card to avoid temptation to Beth who goes on a Norman diet because she is outgrowing her much-beloved fat little pony. And we continue to learn about and love the Cassons. Caddy is center stage here and a twelve-year-old instead of the older teen of the other books. Through harsh experience with foster baby birds, Caddy is afraid to even think about the new baby, clinging so desperately to life while seeing her friends with a clear understanding. I have some new sympathy for Bill too! For fans of the series, this is delicious and for new readers there is the joy of discovery and all the fun ahead. Now – there’s still a lot of years in between Caddy’s World and Saffy’s Angel! Here’s hoping Hilary McKay continues to fill in the space.