Sunday, May 28, 2006

HilaryMcKay's Stars and Angels

One of the things I love about being a writer for children and young adults is reading other books in the same field. This is doubly validated for me by my thesis. So, yesterday, after a kind of ordeal-y day, I bought Saffy's Angel by UK writer Hilary McKay.

I've read these out of order because my superviser brought me back two of the books, Indigo Star and Permanent Rose, from the UK. Thank you, Clare! I loved them, and so did the girlchild.

McKay won a Whitbread Award for Saffy's Angel, the first novel detailing the Casson family life. There are four children: Caddy, the eldest, a sunshine child whose spare time is spent taking driving lessons and caring for her younger siblings, Indigo, a troubled kid with many fears - which he attempts to tame by extreme exposure. Saffy, who always feels outcast from the others, particularly when she discovers her name is not listed on the paint colour chart, and Rose - not just Rose, but Permanent Rose, so named because in the early months of her life, due to a cardiac problem, she wasn't expected to be permanent.

Bill and Eve Casson, the parents, represent polar opposites of the arts world. Bill is a self-declared avant garde 'proper' artist, with a London studio, an ego to match, a web page and a lot of bluster. Eve paints populist paintings - representational landscapes and portraits of children and dogs. She has visible commitment to her art, often sleeping in the shed-stuido on a shabby pink couch, working at odd hours, spending the contents of the housekeeping jar on art materials and teaching art to various communtiy groups such as The Young Offenders, in order to keep her household together.

The characters develop beautifully over the books and seeds that were planted in Saffy's Angel are tenderly nurtured until they bear fruit in later books.

The latest book in the series hasn't been released in Australia yet, but you can read a sneak preview here. The cover of this is vastly different to the covers on the three I have - I think I prefer mine, despite the hot pink look.

For me, the best books for children and young adults are those that can be read with complete enjoyment by adults and therefore returned to in adulthood by the children who grew up with them. They touch on adult lives as well as the lives of their central child characters and explore them with a loving, unflinching insight and a fair dose of humour that comes from sharp observations, a good ear for dialogue and a sense of the surreal.

Today was a lovely calm day - went to the library, borrowed two Alice Hoffman books for young adults - beautiful covers - dark and moody. The Accountant and I had lunch together and then wandered home with the dogs. I napped and he stomped around on the roof - we have a mysterious leakage that is not related to weather conditions. We cooked dinner (I'm being very generous here)

I've been thinking about my fantasy novel - Gibah's right, (although I had thought of it before he posted his comment) - it does need some lightness. I have had lots of thoughts about it in the last two or three days but haven't written them in - I kind of liked the direction I was going in last week and that's is in the same direction.

Knititng news - finished the Cappucino vest - break out the champagne! The neck was dodgy but okay in the end. I have to block it a bit and then get The Accountant to pose in it at his ledgers and I'll post some photos. I think it is great - the colours are terrific and they look superb on The Accountant, too. The eaving in of the ends makes me elibigle for canonisation.

Currently on the needles? The cardigan for the girlchild.

Also finished - fingerless mittens, which were to be mine but I handed them over to the girlchild in a moment of weakness.


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