cover image Candyfloss


Jacqueline Wilson, , illus. by Nick Sharratt. . Roaring Brook/Brodie, $14.95 (339pp) ISBN 978-1-59643-241-3

The latest from Britain’s former Children’s Laureate is vintage Wilson. Flora Barnes splits her week between her mother, who has remarried a successful executive, and her father whose situation is less rosy. When her stepfather accepts a temporary transfer to Australia, “Floss,” as she is called, must choose to spend six months in sunny Sydney or to stay with her father above his failing chip shop. At school, she’s also torn. Her best friend, the “posh and persnickety” Rhiannon, has become materialistic and judgmental; Floss can’t stand the cruel teasing Rhiannon directs at a new classmate. When Floss chooses to stay with her dad—because she realizes he needs her more than her mother does—her standing at school suffers. Her mismatched clothing, which carries the greasy spoon’s scent, makes her the new target of Rhiannon’s torments. Meanwhile, her father is losing his shop to bankruptcy and the possibility of homelessness becomes real. This tension paces a novel that contains many compelling, sometimes gritty, elements—shopping, gambling, fair-going, romance, a knife-fight and even a scary fire. All that action makes the narrative longer than usual for this age group, but Floss’s emotional turmoil should hook girls. There’s a real tenderness to her relationship with her father, fully dimensional in all his flaws, a man whose love for his daughter often clouds his judgment. A full page of Sharratt’s comic-strip–style panels opens each chapter, and “Floss’s Glossary” defines unfamiliar Briticisms. Ages 9-12. (Sept.)