This story has a ten-year-old heroine so unreservedly nice and positive it seems inevitable she will eventually have a fall. And so she does, when her formidable new school mistress quickly becomes and then stays highly irritated with such a free spirit. For Joy, aptly named, had never been to school before, travelling around the world instead with her peripatetic parents who also provided loving and fun home schooling. Returning to the UK to stay with a sick grandfather proves another matter. But while her stroppy older sister soon finds she actually enjoys school, once given the chance, Joy never gets the hang of it. Her only refuge there is a massive ancient oak tree standing in the school playground. Finally she makes friends with cheerful fellow pupil Benny and things start to improve.
At this stage the story turns more conventional, with Joy and Benny discovering that their tree is now facing destruction in order to build a new school. Their protest against this is instantly successful and they now have a lot of support, including their initially hostile teacher. So much, so unlikely, but this is a story more about personality than local politics. Before coming to Britain Joy had a dream childhood, exploring far off countries year by year as part of a family whose members also enjoyed each other. This privileged existence could have turned her into a superior show-off, but her clever author Jenny Valentine effortlessly bats away any feelings of envy. Over-flowing with good humour and a fount of lively suggestions when it comes to devising new imaginative games, Joy deserves her happy ending. She even manages to bring crusty old grandpa round just as so many other small fictional children have always managed to do with their grumpy elders from Heidi and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm onwards.