An engaging story that will appeal to fans of Jacqueline Wilson.
Nine year old Sydney Goodrow is small for her age and she wants to stay that way. Her mum is only 124cm tall and her dad, when he was alive, wasn’t much taller. Despite the challenges it can cause, Sydney knows that being little is special and that’s why she tries hard with her regular ‘shrinking exercises’. However, despite her best efforts, she can’t help growing taller and growing up.
This is an engaging story that will appeal to fans of Jacqueline Wilson. Told from a first person viewpoint, the main character – Sydney – has a distinctive and appealing voice and we instantly warm to her. Girls around about eight to eleven or twelve will easily identify with Sydney’s interests and worries, especially her desire not to be uprooted from her home and her two best friends when she discovers she has to move from London to Portsmouth. I particularly enjoyed it when one of Sydney’s best friends, Harriet, develops a plot to kidnap Sydney and hide her in the attic.
There are a fun set of supporting characters ranging from the local chip shop owner (Mr Wu) who insists on showing off his legs, to the evil class teacher in Portsmouth, Mrs Pervis. Admittedly some of these characters are slight stereotypes but I doubt this will matter to children.
By far the strongest characters are, however, Sydney’s immediate family: Grandma who lies in French, truculent thirteen year old Jade and Sydney’s artistic and long-suffering mum, Amy, who has dwarfism. The story weaves in a very informative explanation of the challenges of dwarfism through the prejudice and practical challenges Sydney’s mum has to face in her daily life, such as the difficulty she has buying clothes. I couldn’t help but smile when their nasty landlord struggles to find the right way to address someone with dwarfism and mum calmly replies: ‘I like to be called Amy. It’s my name.’ The matter of fact way that Sydney describes her mum’s experiences is particularly clever as readers are likely to accept this as part of the story and only sublimely realise the issues being raised in the book.
The plot itself is slightly slow at the start but picks up pace as the book progresses. The strong narrative voice and regular touches of humour are, however, more than enough to compensate. The climax is particularly satisfying and is, once again, reminiscent of a Jacqueline Wilson novel. This is happily ever after, but not the happily ever after that Sydney wanted.
Overall this is a warm and engaging story of family, friendship and how to be happy.
If you liked this, you might also like Opal Plumstead by Jacqueline Wilson or My Sister Jodie by Jacqueline Wilson or Vicky Angel by Jacqueline Wilson.
Date: April 2016
Publisher: Quercus Children’s Books
Author’s Website: Amber Lee Dodd
Review first published on The Bookbag