Christmas is fast approaching, and nothing is going to plan for Rose in this fifth and final book in the series about the Casson family. School is boring and home life lonely, with the house dark and empty at the end of the school day. Rose’s mum, down with flu and overwhelmed by deadlines, has decamped to the garden shed, reappearing only sporadically with armfuls of antibiotics and nasal sprays. Sister Caddy has long left home, and Saffy and Sarah, when present at all, are boringly single-minded in their efforts to turn Rose into a reader. And then there’s the hapless David, her brother’s friend, who arrives unbidden, dumping his drum kit into what little space the house has to offer. So when teacher Mr Spencer cancels Christmas in favour of SATS and Saffy forgets to buy the Christmas tree, it seems that things can’t get worse.
At the centre of the various story threads is the resilient Rose, cheerfully making the best of the muddle of family life. Written in diary form, this novel is at times poignant but essentially upbeat – and irresistibly humorous. Characters are larger than life, at times individualistic or mildly eccentric but also warm-hearted and generous. This hugely entertaining story effortlessly recreates a tightly knit world, imbued with a strong sense of belonging – a slice of childhood so multi-layered, touching and real that there’s something for every child reader to identify with and savour. Here’s a book that truly proves the joys to be had from reading.