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English teacher interested in language and culture, and also in fiction using magic, myth, folklore and the supernatural. Now teaching part-time in a Leicester Upper School (ages 14-19) and also writing for children, teens and teachers.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Family Friday Review: Lolly Luck by Ellie Daines

This charming debut is a timely tale of family hardship.

Author: Ellie Daines
Title: Lolly Luck
Genre: Contemporary realism (children's)
Series: none (to my knowledge)
Publisher: Andersen
Published: Jan 2012
Source: kindly sent for review by the publisher

Find it at Goodreads or Amazon UK  

The blurb says:
'I'm Lolly Luck by name, lucky by nature. I'm the luckiest person I know, and the luckiest person everyone else knows.'

But Lolly's luck begins to turn. When her dad loses his job and the family home, Lolly thinks things can't get any worse. Then she overhears her parents arguing and learns a secret that will change her life forever...

My verdict: Realistic characters and situations make this an effective and enjoyable read.
This tale of family difficulties leading to major changes in circumstances is well told and will be enjoyed by readers of around 9 and up. Lolly is a likeable and realistic character who narrates her own story in a lively voice. The idea of her being lucky and feeling she's lost her luck adds a different angle to the story and contributes to her generally positive outlook on life, while her penchant for making paper fans is a cute and realistic quirk to her character. Her relationship with her parents and sister and others at school are believable and will have familiar aspects for many readers, including the teasing from the 'mean girl' and her hesitation in sharing some of her problems with even her best friend.

The triggering issue here - her father losing his job - will, unfortunately, be familiar to some readers who are likely to find a story like this reassuring. Lolly's resilience, especially since we see her optimism sometimes struggling, offers hope. This is no sugar-coated version of the world and Daines does not go easy on Lolly and her family, but it is all handled well for the target age group. The life-changing secret is also believable, as are the circumstances surrounding its revelation.

I enjoyed this book and my 8 yr old is keen to read it next, thanks largely to the cute cover. It's worth a mention that I probably wouldn't have noted Lolly's intended racial identity without this cover, and I think this is a good thing. It's great that there is greater representation of diversity in children's books now, and that there can be black and minority ethnic characters in kids' books without the story being somehow about their race. Any kind of family can experience what Lolly's family does, so there is no need for such stories to default to white kids any more, like they did when I was a kid.

Overall, this is a very good example of contemporary realism for the 'middle grade' reader. It doesn't shy away from difficult situations, but it isn't miserable either. Lolly is a great character who carries the tale beautifully.

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