My daughter and I have loved Jacqueline Wilson books since she was tiny. She is 12 and a half now and I felt that she might be getting a bit old for them, but we have recently discovered a few Jacqueline Wilson books for older readers. We loved Lola Rose recently and have just read The Illustrated Mum and Dustbin Baby. Both books are suitable for older tweens and young teenagers.
The Illustrated Mum
The Illustrated Mum has a lot in common with Lola Rose. At times, it almost felt like we were reading the same book and at times it didn’t feel like it was as good, but we grew to love the book and care about the characters. Interestingly, we saw Jacqueline Wilson at Cheltenham Literature Festival recently and she said that The Illustrated Mum is one of her favourite books she has written.
Dolphin (yes, that’s really her name), lives with her older sister, Star, and her mum, Marigold (who she always calls ‘Marigold’, not ‘mum’). Marigold is tattooed from head to foot and Dolphin thinks she is the most beautiful mum in the world. But Marigold sometimes stays out all night, leaving the girls home alone, she drinks too much and sometimes goes a bit ‘weird’. The girls are good at reading their mum’s moods and supporting her, but Star has had enough and decided she wants to move out, leaving Dolphin to cope alone.
The Illustrated Mum is a very moving book. It would be a really good read for children who are living with a parent with mental health problems or addictions, to help them feel less alone. It’s also an important read for other children, who might wonder why that kid in their class is dirty, scruffy or a bit strange. It helps them to understand that not everyone is lucky to live in a happy, stable home and not to judge someone who seems a bit unusual, because we don’t know what goes on behind closed doors.
Will Dolphin, Star and Marigold get their happy ending? You will have to read the book to find out!
Dustbin Baby is the story of April, a 14 year old girl who was found abandoned in a dustbin as a newborn baby. The whole book is set on her 14th birthday, as she bunks off school and tries to piece together her life, work out who she really is and track down her birth mother.
Unsurprisingly, April hasn’t had an easy life. In her 14 years, the dustbin baby has packed in a failed adoption, a number of foster homes and a residential school. She remembers all of these as she travels back to the dustbin where it all started. Will April find where she really came from?
Dustbin Baby is a fairly short book, with big writing. Although aimed at older readers than the average Jacqueline Wilson, it isn’t actually as upsetting as The Illustrated Mum and should be suitable for children from about 10. It is well worth a read for children who like a believable and moving story.