Billie Bright, 11 years old and about to start secondary school, is the youngest member of ‘Team Bright’, her large, loud, loving family headed by Dad Splendide, who runs the cafe under their flat, and followed by her three angelically named older brothers. Billie’s eldest brother Gabriel is about to marry his Ukrainian boyfriend, leading to many bridesmaid related dilemmas for Billie, middle brother Raphael is kind, gentle but completely unable to hold down a job for long and sweet third brother Michael is a would-be rugby star and unwitting girl-magnet. The missing member of the family is Billie’s Mum, who died when she was 5.
Billie’s first big school task is to complete a Hero Project on someone inspirational. Billie has no hesitation in choosing her Mum as her subject but why do her family members prove to be so secretive and unforthcoming when questioned about the Mum that Billie does not really remember. When Billie finally uncovers the secret and sadness behind this silence, the truth about her Mum’s rejection of Gabriel’s sexuality, Billie is devastated and it takes all the love, warmth and chaotic, heartfelt support of her family and friends to help her to see that she is surrounded by love and that her Mum just never had the chance to change her mind.
This book is an absolute pleasure to read as the author brilliantly depicts the ups and downs of a loving circle of family and friends in a style that is both sharply perceptive and laugh out loud funny. Billie is an endearing narrator, the characters, settings and situations are believable and contemporary, complex topics are tackled in a natural way without becoming ‘issues’ and inclusivity and diversity are a completely given part of the world of the story, not forced or unbelievable in any way. The author has described her books as being about ‘families, friendship, feelings and funny stuff’ and this is the perfect description of her latest title. It is an entertaining, moving, affirming, lively and readable story about the joys and sorrows of family life, friendships and the important transition to secondary school. The introduction of characters from Susie Day’s other books enhances the atmosphere of a wide, interlinked community. Highly recommended for all libraries.