|Forever Rose (Casson Family) by Hilary McKay|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: A wonderful last chapter to the outstanding Casson Family series - funny, individual and always endearing. The elegant prose and shrewd observation make it equally attractive to newly confident readers and older teens.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 288||Date: September 2007|
|Publisher: Hodder Children's Books|
Rose, the youngest member of the inimitable Casson family, has reached Year 6. SATs are looming. Rose's class has a new - and horrible - teacher called Mr Spencer, who is so intent on reforming his class of miscreants and hothousing them to outstanding marks in these dreaded exams, that he cancels Christmas. Rose and her friends Kiran and Molly have more than a sneaking suspicion that he rather enjoyed doing it too. But Mr Spencer can't cancel the Christmas School Trip and the girls intend to make the most of it. Molly will finally achieve a lifetime's ambition while they're there.
While she's not in fearsome combat with the dreadful Mr Spencer, Rose can get rather lonely. Daddy's in his London flat with his Art all Burned Out. Mummy's ill in the shed, trying to contain her germs. Saffy is always off with her best friend Sarah, cramming for various lessons. Indigo is always working at one or other of his part time jobs. Tom is in New York. Michael is back in town and has resumed his job as a driving instructor, but when he passes Rose in his car, he never acknowledges her. And nobody knows where in the world Caddy has disappeared to. David's always there though, complete with drum kit. It's no wonder Rose gets into some scrapes...
You know, the Sunday Telegraph review of Permanent Rose an earlier book in the Casson Family series said the book was the antidote to everything that's bad in children's books - and while this is perhaps hyperbole, Hilary McKay is certainly the antidote to everything that's bad in formulaic series of books for children. We have all sorts of endless bubblegum fiction series, particularly, I think, for girls, in which writers always tick the same old boring boxes, seldom trouble to write well, and provide children with little more than the [non] literary equivalent of a soap opera. McKay writes quite light fiction - it's amusing and sharply-observed, but its principal purpose is to entertain, not educate. However, it is never formulaic. Her English is impeccable - right down to never using contractions - and her style is simple but elegant. The jokes aren't banana skin jokes - there are subtle layers of humour running through both situation and dialogue, and her books repay a greater bounty with each reading.
In Forever Rose we are saying goodbye to the Cassons, so most of the outstanding plot strands resolve themselves, but it doesn't feel as though that's what's happening. The characters continue to grow and develop and McKay chronicles them with a kindly eye and a tongue, as ever, very slightly in her cheek. Rose learns to appreciate that while families can be horribly frustrating, they can also be the solidity that saves us. And that while life can be full of long paragraphs of no use at all except possibly (says Saffron) to build up your stamina, it also has jokes, adventures, and homes, and these will help you to live Happily Ever After.
I don't mind telling you that I shed a tear. Or perhaps even two. This is the last one. No more Cassons. Forever Rose has such quality that I think it will appeal to confident readers of eight or nine, tween girls of ten to twelve and even early to mid teenagers. And, of course, me.
My thanks to the kind people at Hodder for sending the book.
Another book that can be enjoyed by a wide range of ages is The Invisible Girl by Laura Ruby.
You can read more book reviews or buy Forever Rose (Casson Family) by Hilary McKay at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy Forever Rose (Casson Family) by Hilary McKay at Amazon.com.
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