By Kate Pavao,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Colorful story of quirky, loving, artistic family.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Saffy becomes friends with a girl in a wheelchair, whom her family ignored for years; Saffy's mother allows her children to do dangerous things, like hang out of a window.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this novel features kids using poor judgment: Indigo hangs out his window in order to cure his vertigo, Rose eats paint, and Saffy, the central character, hides in her friend's car to join her family on vacation (without telling her mother).
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What's the Story?
Saffy's not quite sure of her place in her chaotic, artistic family. First, she learns that she was adopted (by her mother's twin, making her brother and sisters actually her cousins). Then, her grandfather, with whom she always imagined a special relationship, dies.
When he leaves her a \"stone angel\" in his will, Saffy and her best friend hatch a sneaky plan to get from England to Italy (Saffy was living there when her mother died and reasons that's where the angel must be). But when Saffy returns back home, she finds it is where she is meant to be after all -- and where her mysterious angel is, too.
Is It Any Good?
The plotting is solid, but it's the characters that make this book such a fantastic read. This is the story of adopted Saffy finding her place in her family, sure, but it's also an introduction to the nice, but nutty, Cassons. Saffy's family members are flawed but also creative and loyal, including mother Eve, who forgets things like dinner, and who is overly permissive because she believes her kids "were in every way more talented, intelligent, and wise than she would ever be."
The only character who isn't particularly sympathetic is Bill, the father, who spends his week acting the part of an artist in London, belittling his talented wife who must juggle her work and four children alone at home. But he is shot down at times by his outspoken offspring, and ultimately learns to see his wife's artistic ability. In the end, this is a funny and tender novel. Readers will fall in love with the Cassons, and be excited to get Hilary McKay's other books about the children who live and create in the unkempt Banana House.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the Cassons' hands-off parenting style, while restating their own philosophy and rules.
- Author: Hilary McKay
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster
- Publication date: June 10, 2005
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 9 - 12
- Number of pages: 160
- Last updated: November 15, 2019
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