Welcome to my blog. I often think I was born with a book in my hand. I have always enjoyed reading, but more importantly, talking about books. This blog is partially about reviews, but is really a forum to talk about what I'm reading, and express all of the thoughts and feelings that there simply isn't room for in a professional review. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on your favourite books as you follow my reading journey.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Must Read Middle-Grade: The Casson Family Saga by Hilary McKay

Welcome to the world of the Casson family. There's Eve and Bill, the clan's artist parents, Caddy (Cadmium) the eldest, then Saffy (Saffron), Indgo and Rose.  If you live in Britain, Hilary McKay might already known to you. If you don't know her, and you've enjoyed books by authors such as Beverly Cleary, Gennifer Choldenko or Jeanne Birdsall,  you should run out and buy these books for yourself, or your favourite 10 to 13-year-old reader.

The series officially begins with Saffy's Angel, which introduces the family, and middle-child Saffron. All of the Casson family are named for colours on the colour spectrum, except Saffy. This leads Saffy to realize that she's adopted, and the story focuses on her quest to find out where she came from but also solidifies her place within the family.

Next comes Indigo's Star, which is the only book focusing on Indigo- the only boy in the family. It's a story about bullying, and friendship, and as with the first book, McKay depicts the way that the family comes together when it matters, and the closeness that the siblings share.

The 3rd and 5th books feature the baby of the family- Rose. Rose, affectionately called "Permanent Rose" (Which is also the name of the 3rd book) because of her premature birth and initial uncertainty of her survival, picks up shortly after the events of book 2, and really demonstrates the feistiness  and determination of this character. Book 5, titled Forever Rose, picks up about a year or so after book 4, and Rose is feeling somewhat left behind. Saffy and Indigo, now teenagers, are busy with their teenage pursuits, and Caddy has been MIA ince her almost wedding just over a year ago. But Rose being Rose, she doesn't stay down for long, and readers are treated to a first-person account of Rose's irrepressible spirit.

Book 4, Caddy Ever After, focuses on the romantic entanglements of a now 19-year-old Caddy. Not to be outdone, each of her siblings also has a tangle with love, and four hilarious, and intertwining stories emerge. McKay also returns the focus to Caddy in the sixth book and prequel to the series called Caddy's World, introducing readers to Caddy at 12-years-old, the year that everything changes for her and her family.

Eve and Bill, though both artists, are quite different. Eve reminds me a great deal of the Jennifer Saunders character from the Britcom Absolutely Fabulous, (though without the drug abuse and excessive drinking), and I always picture Bill Nighy (another famous British actor) as the dad- but also completely wholesome. The pair, while not divorced, live apart during the week. Bill retains a flat and a girlfriend in the city, (though he does come home occasionally and phones almost daily) and Eve stays at home with the children, and has a sort of studio in a shed on their property. They are both loving parents, and devoted to each other and their children, but parenting is a bit of an abstract idea, and thus the children's upbringing is quite unusual- and entertaining!

Ever since the publication of Saffy's Angel in 2002, this series has been one of my favourites to read and recommend to girls who want the depth but not the content of YA.  Hilary McKay is a masterful writer, and her characters really come to life on the page. The stories are funny, fast-paced, and really entertaining. The children are realistic, the parents frazzled, and no matter what kind of situations they face, or what different directions life pulls them in, the closeness they share is unfaltering.

The Casson family is unconventional and off-beat, but are also a warm, loving and realistic family that you will wish you were part of, and want to spend time with.