Another novel by this author delivers its usual treat. A sequel to the equally brilliant two novels already featuring Binny and her affectionate family, this one sees her aged around 13 and still preferring reading The Railway Children and A Little Princess to anything the social media has to offer. She also suffers from the sort of exaggerated sense of guilt that also sometimes used to afflict E.Nesbit’s Bastable family. In this current story her distress is occasioned after taking some much needed money left outside a cash dispensing machine which then gets lost before she has a chance to return it to the bank involved. Meanwhile middle-aged Miss Piper next door is showing some alarming witch-like behaviour; something else that has to be sorted out.
So much for a plot which gently but firmly keeps readers in suspense until the last two pages. But the real joy in all McKay’s stories provided by the passages of dialogue, both inner and as expressed to others. Inconsequential at times, elsewhere embarrassingly honest, there is never a dull moment because in this family you can say pretty well what you like. Except that nothing too negative ever comes over, given that Binny’s mother (father is dead), her big sister and her little brother all hold her in the same amused affection that she feels for them. There is also room for a best girlfriend as well as delightful Gareth, the over-opinionated nerdish adolescent who is always there for Binny when she needs him most, which in this story she often does. Their final, first clumsy embrace just before the end heralds a new start for both of them. If this also betokens the end of this series, so much the worst. But for providing so much wit, insight and unaffected enjoyment for so many years now, Hilary McKay deserves all grateful thanks from reviewers ready for a story providing such unaffected enjoyment rather than offering yet another trip down the road to dystopia.