Opal Plumstead by Jacqueline Wilson
|Opal Plumstead by Jacqueline Wilson|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Blimey! This is Jacqueline Wilson's 100th book! Fabulous as ever, she's gone back in time to the early 20th century, suffragettes and the Great War. Do we really need to say it's super? It's super.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 528||Date: October 2014|
|External links: Author's website|
Living in Edwardian England, Opal Plumstead is a fiercely intelligent girl. She has already won a scholarship to a public school and dreams of going to university. But all her ambitions are snatched away when her father is sent to prison and Opal is forced to abandon her education for a job in the Fairy Glen sweet factory. The other workers there find Opal snobby and arrogant but the factory's owner, Mrs Roberts, notices her artistic talent and treats Opal as a protege. Through Mrs Roberts, Opal learns about the suffragette movement and even meets the legendary Mrs Pankhurst.
But war is brewing. And Opal's life is about to see even more upheaval...
Oh my goodness! Opal Plumstead is Jacqueline Wilson's 100th book! That's prolific, right? I first discovered her work when I read The Illustrated Mum. It made me laugh. It made me cry. And, more than anything else, it felt truthful. I've been a fan ever since. So I'm proud to be reviewing her centenary story. And I love it that Jackie has chosen to join her centenary with that other important centenary going on in 2014 - that of the Great War.
Setting Opal Plumstead in the run-up to that apocalyptic conflict is typical of the way Jackie thinks. It's not about the war: it's about a young girl coming of age and making the best of the situation around her. It's about her hopes and dreams. But, of course, her hopes and dreams are inextricably entwined with the society in which she lives. Opal will be affected by World War I, but she's also influenced by the suffragette movement, by the lack of a welfare state supporting families in crisis, by the mistakes of her parents and by the attitudes of the people around her.
She's a fabulous central character - bright and sparky and an original thinker. But Opal is also socially awkward - too blunt and too direct for a young girl of her times (and perhaps even for a girl of today, Wilson hints). You can't help but root for her as she beats her own path through a rapidly changing world with real heart and determination. The supporting cast are sympathetic too - from Opal's free-loving sister, guilt-stricken father and even to her judgmental mother, who is more a prisoner of her times than a fully-fledged meanie.
A great deal of research and thought has gone into Opal Plumstead. Everything's accurate - from the little details about what people wore, what they ate, what hours they worked, what lessons were like at school, right up to the larger political picture of the build-up to war and the fight for women's suffrage. If you're an educator reading this review, or even an interested parent, you could look at the fabulous accompanying resource here.
Oh, and it reads like a breeze. Of course. What else would you expect?
Happy 100th book, Jackie!
Another fabulous story that deals with the suffragette movement is Hazel by Julie Hearn.
You can read more book reviews or buy Opal Plumstead by Jacqueline Wilson at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy Opal Plumstead by Jacqueline Wilson at Amazon.com.
Opal Plumstead by Jacqueline Wilson is in the Top Ten Books for Confident Readers 2014.
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