Starring Tracy Beaker

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Jacqueline Wilson ill. Nick Sharratt
Doubleday
0385610173
Oct 2006
The level of popularity Jacqueline Wilson has attained has quite literally been phenomenal. If any contemporary children�s author holds success and output that is comparable with Enid Blyton�s, it is surely Jacqueline Wilson. Both authors� works share an ease of accessibility, the familiar, assumed-child-colloquial tones whilst also perhaps at once being subject to the same questions of �merit�.

Underpinning early works such as �The Suitcase Kid� and �Double Act� are subtle, well-observed situations and social interaction. In books such as �The Lottie Project� a careful symmetry is constructed between child lives in the contemporary and Victorian ages. By comparison, more recent works, �Love Lessons� and �Candy Floss� have felt lacking in the types of astute vision that previously belied Wilson�s crisp, easy prose. In these latter books, the dynamism of storytelling feels to have been submerged by the �issues� presented.

A return to Wilson�s self-professed favourite character � a certain Tracy Beaker � seemed an opportunity to return to novels led by punchy storylines and feisty, strong characters. Sadly, the promise of this is not entirely fulfilled.

The indomitable Tracy Beaker is cast by art and drama teacher Miss Simpkins as the lead, Ebenezer Scrooge, in the school production of �A Christmas Carol�. Preparation for the play alongside schoolyard squabbles, Christmas shopping and the eventual performance of the production make for a pedestrian and fairly cynical-in-feel Christmas tie-in. Credibility is stretched to belief and beyond when Cam, Tracy�s potential future foster mother, proceeds to facilitate the girl�s intoxication using a bizarre concoction of red wine, honey, dandelion leaves, cinnamon, sugar and stale ginger biscuits.

More positively, considered reflection is given to dependencies and expectations in child-mother and mother-child relationships. This occurs most revealingly and indeed touchingly when Cam relays an encounter with her mother following the request that she brings someone along on Christmas day. In typical Jacqueline Wilson style this is related over a temptingly sumptuous box of chocs.

Ironically, given Wilson�s championing of shared reading during her tenure as Children�s Laureate, the lack of chapters in �Starring Tracy Beaker� allows no natural pauses, making it a difficult and, at points, clumsy book to read aloud. The careful expose on the continuing significance of parental influence holds much promise for a book more subtle and soulful than this. It is hard not to feel disappointed.




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This page contains a single entry by Jacob published on November 6, 2006 12:53 PM.

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