This is the second Wilson book narrated by Tracy Beaker’s daughter Jess, aged ten. Jess and Tracy have moved home to Cooksea, a seaside town bearing an uncanny resemblance to Brighton. Tracy now runs an antique shop called The Dumping Ground, in partnership with a woman named Flo, who at one time was a minor television celebrity. The Beaker mother and daughter team face two main problems. The first is the danger than Tracy’s former boyfriend Sean Godfrey may re-enter their lives. The second is the need to identify the boy on the beach who steals people’s ice creams. What effect may this ice cream thief have on the lives of the Beakers?
The boy on the beach, it transpires, is a fugitive foster-child. This provides an opportunity for Wilson to explore in the most effective way the issues of fostering. Although fostering issues often arise on the periphery of stories for young readers, including the earlier history of Tracy herself, it is rare for fostering issues to appear (as they do here) at the centre of such narratives. Readers who have followed Tracy’s career since her debut in 1991 will have become familiar with her attitude towards teacher and figures of authority in general – a mix of detestation and fear. They may be relieved to learn that Tracy has now moderated her destructive urges. She now has a grudging respect for those who are trying to help her daughter develop.
Admirers of Dame Jacqueline will be pleased to learn that the full array of memorable characters who have appeared in earlier Beaker books do reappear in this latest offering.