|Publisher:||Margaret K. McElderry|
Those of you who have read Hilary McKay’s earlier books, among which are The Exiles, Dog Friday, and Dolphin Luck, will happily welcome her new story, Saffy’s Angel. Whether you have read her work or not, you have a special treat in store in Saffy’s Angel.
You’ll meet the four Casson children, whose mother, Eve, a fine-arts painter, has given them the names of paint colors. Cadmium, called Caddy, is the eldest; then comes Saffron, known as Saffy; Indigo, the only boy; and Rose, the youngest. When Saffy discovers quite by accident that she has been adopted, she is deeply upset, though the others assure her it makes no difference at all. Saffy is the daughter of Eve’s twin sister, who lived in Siena, Italy, and died in a car crash. Grandad brought Saffy, as a very small child, back from Siena.
At Grandad’s death, he leaves something to each of the children. To Saffy, it is “her angel,” although no one knows its identity. How Saffy discovers what her angel is, with the help of an energetic new friend, lies at the heart of this enchanting story. Unforgettable characters come alive in often deeply humorous and always absorbing events to make a book to be treasured for a long, long time.
Whitbread Book Award-winning author Hilary McKay is no stranger to high praise, but for Saffy’s Angel she really deserves the top honours. This heavenly little book tells the story of Cadmium, Saffron, Indigo and Rose—siblings who are each as colourful as their exotic names suggest.
Close-knit and divinely eccentric, the family (under the not-so-stable guidance of their mother Eve and their weary father, Bill) chug along quite nicely until one day Saffron discovers she was adopted by the family following the death of her mother, Eve’s twin sister. As Saffron tries to come to terms with the shocking news, her grandfather dies and bequeaths her a stone angel in his will. But where is it? Saffron, her remarkable family and her new found friend, Sarah, embark on a search that sees Saffy heading for Sienna in Italy while her brother and sisters determine to leave no stone unturned in their quest for the cherub they know will make all the difference in the world to their beloved adopted sister.
Saffy’s Angel is written with a simple, understated elegance that allows the reader access to the kind of family we would all, secretly, love to belong to. Each character is drawn with an enviable artistry coupled with, one suspects, a tongue-in the cheek that adds a sharp realistic air to a modern household with a heart of pure, old-fashioned gold. And it is these fabulous characters who lead the unfurling of the story, easing the reader through the pages with an irresistible wit and warmth that smartly avoids cosiness but nonetheless leaves a soothing rosy glow.
Marvellous stuff from a marvellous author who has the potential to knock even the queen of children’s fiction, Jacqueline Wilson, off her perch, this sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking book is a must-read. And don’t be put off by the pinkness of the packaging: it might look terribly girly, but at the heart of the matter is a fantastically straightforward, deeply satisfying, superior read for anyone who has a heart and a few hours to spare. Suitable for ages 10 and over. —Susan Harrison