A Room Full of Chocolate by Jane Elson
|A Room Full of Chocolate by Jane Elson|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Lovely story about friendship and illness. The events are loosely based on the author's own childhood, which lends a ring of real authenticity. Beautifully written and very moving. Funny too! Jane Elson popped into Bookbag Towers to chat to us.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 256||Date: February 2014|
|External links: Author's website|
Sometimes family isn't the one you are born into but the people and pigs you collect along the way.
Yep! Pigs! Claude is the pig in this story but I'll let you meet Claude for yourself when you read the book. Which, of course, you will.
Grace doesn't want to leave her London home and go and live with misery guts Grandad while her mum goes into hospital to get a LUMP sorted out. Grace can't see why she couldn't look after her mum herself. After all, the LUMP was just caused by Mum dancing too much, wasn't it? WASN'T IT? But Mum won't hear of it and Grace must move away, start a new school, make new friends and miss her mum so much that even chocolate doesn't help. Things go from bad to worse when Grace upsets the resident school bully on her very first day.
But Grace finds she isn't alone when she meets Megan, a girl with wild curly hair, an eccentric fashion sense, red wellies and a pet pig. When she's with Megan, Grace feels as though she could cope with anything. Even running away, back home to London and Mum...
Honestly, honestly, honestly, this story is just lovely. It's simply told and easy to read but it's also beautifully written. I loved Grace. She's a "good" child, well-behaved, imaginative and creative. But the stress of her mother's illness, her father's decampment, and being sent away to stay with a standoffish grandparent she doesn't know takes its toll. She says some nasty things to both Mum and Grandad and then suffers even more from the guilt of that. Vulnerable kids like this are the perfect targets for bullies and so of course, poor Grace gets bullied too, at her new school. Your heart bleeds for her. But Grace has plenty going for her even though she doesn't realise it. Grandad isn't so gruff as he makes out. And the friendship she develops with wild girl Megan is a rare and precious thing. Your bleeding heart stops bleeding and starts swelling as you see these two girls protect and sustain one another.
Of course, the overall message is that you should be truthful with children. Children are listening to conversations even when you don't think they are, but they don't always fully understand them. So, if you don't talk directly to them, you can actually make things worse for them as their imaginations run riot. Secrets aren't protection. And sometimes secrets, however well meant, can have devastating consequences, as Grace finds out from a boy she meets whose mother died of cancer and who never got to say goodbye. A Room Full of Chocolate is loosely based on events in the author's own childhood and on discovering this, the clarity of Elson's message and the ring of real authenticity made perfect sense.
This story is one of a painful episode in a little girl's life. It's sad at times but it's also full of joy - the joy of a new friendship and a new grandparent, and the joy of days to come, whatever life throws at us.
Highly, highly recommended.
An equally lovely story of a family dealing with (this time terminal) illness is Us Minus Mum by Heather Butler.
You can read more book reviews or buy A Room Full of Chocolate by Jane Elson at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy A Room Full of Chocolate by Jane Elson at Amazon.com.
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Robert James said:
What a fab review, Jill! I really liked this one as well, especially the friendship between Megan and Grace.