Binny in Secret by Hilary McKay

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Binny in Secret by Hilary McKay

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: Exciting and funny, silly and moving, this is the story of a wild and unpredictable girl and the mystery she discovers at her new house.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: June 2015
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781444913408

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Reading Binny in Secret was rather like that moment when, as a child, I discovered that Noel Streatfield had written a LOT of other shoe books or, just a few years ago, when I suddenly discovered Jeanne Birdsall and her Penderwick stories, and I gorged on them, utterly delighting in their humour and kindness. I don't quite know how I haven't come across Hilary McKay before, but of course now a long list of her books have gone onto my 'to read' pile because I thoroughly enjoyed this story and I immediately wanted more!

Don't worry if you haven't read the first Binny story, Binny for Short. I hadn't read it prior to reading this one, and you can dive right into the story without worrying too much about what happened before. This story, at its heart, is about families. It is written following two different time lines, a plot device that I find often falls flat but in this case works beautifully. My only quibble might be that just occasionally I felt I cared more about the secondary characters than I did about Binny. There is a different family in each story line and, through the course of the mystery, those stories become interlinked. It's cleverly done, integrating the past and the present, and the characters in both are engaging and interesting to read about.

I did struggle a little with Binny, initially! She's so very fiery, and touchy, yet in the end I came to love her passion. My favourite character, however, was Binny's younger brother James. He reminded me of my own little boy, and I laughed out loud on several occassions over his pronouncements and funny little ways. He's such an oddball, and his permanent greeting of 'hello, don't kiss me...' always made me smile. McKay captures family life perfectly. I loved the mother, who struggles as a real mother would, and the interplay between the siblings is done really well. It felt like I was reading about a real family. The same is true of the secondary story line and again the children seemed very true to life. I also liked the wildlife aspects to the story, and although the mystery isn't terribly mysterious there was a sort of twist later on in the book that I hadn't expected at all.

Really, this book would have been a definite five star review for me but for one aspect, and that's the bullying that Binny experiences. It is, sadly, believable but I felt dreadful for poor Binny as no one seems to pick up on it or realise it is happening to her, and so she is left to cope alone. Because of this, the reconciliation with one of the bullies rang very untrue for me. I felt it was a shame that McKay didn't deal with the bullying in a more helpful way for those children who experience this sort of behaviour, and I felt cross that things went back to normal so easily. Binny forgives a lot faster than I do!

Still, the rest of the story is just so wonderful that I've only knocked off half a star, and I would most earnestly urge you to go and buy a copy, give it to any 8-12 year olds who enjoy a good story, and when they've dozed off steal it from their bedside table, run yourself a bath, and luxuriate in a jolly good story!

You might like to take a look at The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall and Binny for Short, the first book about Binny.

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Buy Binny in Secret by Hilary McKay at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Binny in Secret by Hilary McKay at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Binny in Secret by Hilary McKay at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Binny in Secret by Hilary McKay at


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