This gentle, empathetic debut children’s novel tells the story of Phyll, who is struggling to cope with her Mum’s depression and with a move to a new home by the sea. Phyll feels lost and alone, especially when she must attend Camp Sunshine and face bullying Hilda and her gang the Horribles. Phyll’s difficult summer is lifted by her friendship with Clark, a fellow summer camp attendee, and with a wise old man, Mr Djinn, a local care home resident who claims to be a genie and who tells wonderful stories. Mr Djinn’s tales and advice help Phyll to make positive changes in her life and to learn that making wishes is easy but to wish well is hard.
As Phyll’s confidence strengthens she sets up a free dog-walking service, reunites a lost dog with its owner and helps to catch a dog-napper. Phyll learns that life is a story, and she can write her own happy ending if she believes in herself.
Andy Jones has written a positive book, full of empathy, which deals with themes of friendship, self-belief, depression, loss, love and the importance of emotional support and encouragement, all helped along with a touch of magic. The characters are sympathetic, the subplots add pace and sensitive issues, such as mental health and loss, are sensitively handled. This is a heart-warming, witty and hopeful book for young readers.