I’m a huge admirer of Hilary McKay’s work. I love the dysfunctional Cassons, the bolshie Exiles and the children in the Dog Friday trilogy. McKay even pulled off the seemingly impossible and wrote a convincing (and radical) sequel to A Little Princess.
Binny for Short is another stand alone. I read it straight after finishing the 580th page of the misinterpretation of tara jupp and I can tell you that while Binny is a short book for children, there is more sadness, humour and genuine feeling in it than in most novels for adults. Binny is one of three children who once had a happy, comfortable family life but for whom everything changed when their father died. For Binny, the worst change was the loss of her dog, Max. After an unpleasant time moving from one horrid flat to another, the family, and Binny in particular, is left a small house by Aunty Violet, Binny’s enemy, whom she blames for the loss of Max. Life improves but still Binny grieves.
Hilary McKay is so good at the psychology of children. The self-contained, determined, hard working ‘I will conquer’ attitude (Clare). The terrible fears and panics which can’t be explained to anyone (Binny). The skewed logic which makes incomprehensibly barmy behaviour seem the norm (James). The children’s hard-working and long-suffering mother holds down a job, sleeps on the sofa because the house is so small and has to cope with the often irrational doings of Binny and James. She does all this with patience, humour and good sense and is the real heroine of the book, IMO.
This is a children’s book, so there is a happy ending but there are times when you wonder how there can be. Absolutely brilliant stuff.