The Illustrated Mum Jacqueline Wilson
Have you ever read anything by Wilson? She's huge in her native England and has a steady following here. I've listened to a few of her books on audio and this is the first I've actually read. But, with everything by her I'm familiar with, I'm always stunned by her ability to really get at dark, hard topics but in stories that are appropriate for kids and not totally depressing.
Dolphin thinks her mum, Marigold, is the best. She has witchy green eyes and tattoos all over her body. Dolphin's sister, Star, used to like Marigold, too. But lately Star's been growing up and thinking that Marigold needs to grow up too. She needs to get a job, stop drinking, and just be normal. When Star's father shows up, she takes the chance to move in with him, leaving Dolphin with Marigold.
Star's always taken care of Dolphin and Marigold and when Marigold's behavior gets really bad, Dolphin quickly realizes she's in over her head.
As an adult, my heart broke for Dolphin. Marigold is very unstable and can't provide for her children-- Star takes her to get the welfare check because Marigold would just go out and spend all the money, while Star uses it to buy food. But all the other adults in Dolphin's life have failed her. They look down at her because she's from a bad family and wears weird clothes and needs a bath. They never reach out and try to help, they just judge her and make everything worse.
At the same time, this is a hopeful story, with great friendships and learning to accept change and loving someone no matter how they fail you.
My only complaint was that the end was a bit abrupt-- not that it suddenly got super tidy (it's deliciously ambiguous for adults, probably not for younger readers.) But rather it ended and my first thought was "is this copy missing pages?"
Still, it won a ton of awards in England (including the Children's Book of the Year Award and the Guardian Award for Children's Fiction) and overall it was really excellent.
I will be seeking out much more of Wilson's work.
Book Provided by... my local library
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