Laurel, Lollipop, Lolly is 12 years old. Her mother has just died after a long illness and the only family left to look after her and her much loved but ancient cat, Mr Pooter, is her mum’s brother and his wife. So Laurel moves from a messy, arty, loving home in the middle of London to a suburban, neat as a pin, book free, pet hating house to live with her aunt and uncle and their two children. Aunt Ellen isn’t evil in a wicked stepmother kind of way, but she’s hurtful and unkind, hating the poor old cat and caring more about the state of the carpet than she does about how Laurel might feel. Laurel’s self protection is to close down and become like an ‘ice lolly’, a frozen cage protecting her from what she feels. Her cousin Michael is kind and so is her uncle in a weak kind of way, but her younger cousin Holly is a chip off her mother’s block. Laurel is friendless and unhappy and often makes things worse for herself by saying the wrong thing. In her loneliness, she mistakes the kind librarian at school for a personal friend and the scene where she turns up uninvited to her home in the school holidays will bring a lump to the reader’s throat. Faced with the prospect of Mr Pooter being put down, Laurel runs away.
There’s a fairy godmother ending in the form of the arrival of her mother’s long lost best friend (girlfriend?) who is willing to adopt her but Jean Ure has done such a great job in this emotionally truthful story, that I was willing to suspend any kind of disbelief in the likelihood of such an event and was just delighted with an old fashioned happy ending of the ‘orphan girl finds a new, loving home’ variety.