cover image Wishing for Tomorrow

Wishing for Tomorrow

Hilary McKay, , illus. by Nick Maland. . S&S/McElderry, $16.99 (273pp) ISBN 978-1-4424-0169-3

Readers may well approach this sequel to Frances Hodgson Burnett's timeless novel, A Little Princess , with both skepticism and high expectations. McKay quickly dispels the former and more than fulfills the latter. As she did in The Exiles and its companion stories and in her novels about the Casson clan, the author explores family dynamics—in this case those of the close-knit students left behind at Miss Minchin's Select Seminary for Young Ladies after Sara Crewe departs—with humor and insight. “Did they not have a story too? What happens next?” asks McKay's introduction. Now staying in the south of England with her new guardian and maid, Becky, Sara retains a strong presence in these pages, largely through flashbacks and letters to her best friend, Ermengarde (only once, in an emotional scene in which Sara insists that Becky leave her service to marry her beau, does Sara appear in the present). McKay gives vibrant new life to the school's remaining residents. Earnest, conflicted Ermengarde eases her pain at losing Sara by penning lengthy letters to her—most never posted (writing them “was like shedding a heavy cloak. It was like opening a window”). At Sara's request, Ermengarde takes under her wing “stubborn and unsquashable” Lottie, who utters some of the funniest lines; reprimanded for licking the neighbor's cat, she retorts, “He licked me first.” Additions to the roster include a cheeky but good-humored boy next door and the wise, outspoken maid, Alice. Enhanced by Maland's period illustrations, the novel convincingly evokes the Victorian era, even as McKay interjects a contemporary sensibility. A surprising, dramatic denouement caps this droll and heartwarming tale, a very worthy follow-up to a well-loved classic. Ages 8–12. (Jan.)