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After Mrs James at school suggests writing a diary is a healthy and cathartic activity, Cherry decides to chronicle her own life. She's of the view that her mental cupboard is in definite need of a good clear out. This is not an entirely surprising view: Cherry's parents went through an acrimonious divorce and things were just getting back to normal when Slimey Roland appeared. Can you believe it, but Cherry's mother only went and married this chinless wonder! And then she moved him in. And then she reneged on her promise to buy Cherry a dog because Roly had allergies!

Skinny Melon and Me by Jean Ure

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: A young girl charts the changing of her family after divorce in her diary. Funny and sweet but also serious, Bookbag is glad to see this reissue of a book first published in 1996.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 208 Date: June 2011
Publisher: Harper Collins
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 000742485X

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It's all too much. It's all too unfair. And something must be done!

Of course, Cherry does behave quite badly in parts of this book. But it's understandable. As Roly himself says, he has gatecrashed her living space and hijacked her mother. And as her father's new flat is quite a distance away and his new life more important to him than his old daughter, it's no surprise Cherry does a bit of acting out. Being a child an' all, she's completely unaware of this, of course. And when, later on in the book, her best friend starts to behave in a similar way when her mother gets a new boyfriend, Cherry is aghast at her surliness. For the reader, this is rather funny.

Interspersed with Cherry's diary entries, we also see letters her mother has written to a friend. And what a disappointing mother she is! Her reactions to the situation at home are a mirror reflection of Cherry's. Cherry is difficult, ill-behaved, ungrateful. But this is an adult! And an adult who genuinely doesn't see that a divorce, a remarriage, the prioritising of the interloper over previous promises, even a planned new baby kept a secret until halfway through pregnancy are all things that will impact a child still grieving over her parents' divorce. I wanted to shake the selfish woman!

Sweetly ironic, it's the unwanted Roly who actually has Cherry's best interests at heart and who patiently keeps on doing all the right things, giving the little girl the time she needs to adjust to this torrent of newness being imposed upon her. And, largely thanks to him, it all turns out ok in the end.

First published in 1996, Skinny Melon and Me is a welcome reissue from Harper Collins. It's easy to read and beautifully observed. And it's as fresh as the day it was first published.

My thanks to the good people at Harper Collins for sending the book.

Operation Eiffel Tower by Elen Caldecott would be a good book to read next. It's a lovely kitchen sink drama in which four children must come to terms with a family break-up - beautifully observed with believable characters and nice dollop of quirkiness

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