Thursday, 24 September 2020

Book review : The Time of Green Magic - Hilary McKay

Last week, I had a stinking rotten cold and was even debating whether it could be the dreaded coronavirus. As I pondered going to get a test done, I tucked myself up in bed and chose a book to read from my overstuffed shelves. I definitely didn't want anything long and complicated, so I turned to one of my children's books and chose The Time of Green Magic by Hilary McKay. I was totally enchanted and read the whole thing in two days. Even though I was feeling like complete poo, it still put a smile on my face.

This touching novel features a newly recomposed family, as Theo and his daughter Abi move in with Polly and her two boys, Louis and Max. They need a bigger place to live in and, after a lot of frantic searching, end up going to visit a tall, ivy-covered house. This soon becomes their new family home.

As all kids of divorced parents know, putting together two families and keeping everyone happy is a tough job. Plus, the house is expensive and Polly has to (and actually wants to) go back to work to add some money to the pot. The boys are fed up with having to share a bedroom and young Louis is missing his mum badly. Abi is also in a bad mood because she isn't too keen on having to share her dad with everyone, plus her gran has moved back to Jamaica, now that she isn't needed to look after her grand-daughter.

Luckily, for Abi, there are lots of books that she can get lost in ... slightly more literally than she had planned. When reading about a voyage across a tropical ocean, she can sense a green parrot flying around the room and feel the salty wetness on the pages she is reading.

Louis, meanwhile, has found something else to keep him occupied - a moody wild cat that climbs up the ivy and sneaks into his bed at night. Louis calls him Iffen and fears him as much as he loves him. But where did he come from?

As the older brother, Max has other problems on his plate. He falls out with his best friend over a silly joke and then finds himself getting all tongue-tied when dealing with the new French babysitter. The one whose shoes he has just spattered with the dish of macaroni cheese straight out of the oven !

As each of the children sinks deeper and deeper into their own private well of despair, it turns out that they just need to come together and help each other out in order to find their collective happy ending.

As a parent, it's lovely to find a book that portrays adjusting to new recomposed family life in such a positive way - it reminded me of Tracey Beaker, with its arguments and resentments dwindling away as the family members each start to find their marks. Big bonus points for Abi's Granny Grace who "adopts" a new grandson to write to, to help cheer him up and settle in.

It's a lovely story that will enchant avid readers of all ages with its magical world of books, while also making young readers think about how they fit in with their family members and friends. It's as good as a steaming mug of marshmallow-topped hot chocolate for making you feel better when you're feeling under the weather !

star rating : 5/5

  • Paperback : 224 pages
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1529019247
  • ISBN-10 : 1529019249
  • Product Dimensions : 12.9 x 1.6 x 19.6 cm
  • Publisher : Macmillan Children's Books; Main Market Edition (20 Aug. 2020)
  • Reading level : 9 - 11 years
  • Language: : English

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