Thursday, April 24, 2008
I discovered Jacqueline Wilson a few years back, on a lunchbreak spent trailing Waterstone’s at the corner of Fleet Street near Blackfriars Bridge. Secrets had just come out and because you can judge a book by its cover, I decided to buy it. I was so taken, I used to sneak it under my desk so that I could read a bit further , sheltered by the open laptop and the knowledge that my manager had popped out for coffee. It is a known fact that children’s authors are particularly good in the UK, and that Jacqueline was Children’s Laureate in 2005-2007. But even among a flurry of talented authors, she remains head and shoulders above the rest. She is real, un-sentimental, comical and dramatic; her stories aren’t tear-jerkers, nor are they pointless fantasy romps with Tolkien-esque pretensions (and just as deadly tedious). She is more engaging than Lewis Carrol, her world more fascinating than over-rated Narnia, her characters so memorable I remember all of them and I never ever re-read books. I am particularly fond of Vicky Angel, an exceptional exploration of bereavement, The Illustrated Mum, a fabulous analysis of mother-daughter love, and Girls Under Pressure, a sensitive, comical analysis of thin and fat issues. My Sister Jodie which I have just finished reading and is currently still sitting on my bedside table, is another gem.
‘The teachers stood in a sober line, gripping their hymn books. Jed was there too, in an old donkey jacket because it was clearly the only dark garment he possessed. His head was bowed. He looked white and watery-eyed. He could have been grief-stricken, but then again he might simply be suffering from a hangover.’