This is my first time participating in Marvelous Middle Grade Monday, though I’ve seen some of my Cybils’ friends talking about it in the past. Since I’m determined to review some of the marvelous titles I’m reading as a round I Cybils panelist in a more timely fashion, I thought that this was a great place to do it.
My opinions are mine alone and not meant to reflect the thoughts of the Cybils.
Binny for Short by Hilary McKay starts strong with wonderful writing and such fun details as a beloved bookstore,a story-telling father, and a nemesis.
When Binny’s dad dies, the family struggles financially which means moving schools and apartments each year, and giving up some things that they’ve been used to, including Binny’s beloved dog Max. Granny was going to take him, but Aunt Violet thought it was too much for her. When Granny dies and Aunt Violet comes to the funeral, Binny tells her off, resulting in wholly unexpected consequences. Aunt Violet leaves her seaside cottage to the family, and “especially” to Binny. Her family is all for settling in, but Binny holds out for a bit. Once she’s convinced, she is glad to be there, with an enemy Gareth next door, a cute boy at the docks working on one of the boats, and lots of adventures to be had.
This book is sure to please fans of the Penderwicks. The similarities hit me when I was about 2/3 of the way through. The family is lovely and smart, the English seaside setting is fun, and Binny and Gareth challenge each other to be the best — or worst — they can be.
Like the Penderwick girls, Binny has lost a parent, and it’s definitely affected her life, but I like the way that the whole thing is processed on her level. It’s part of who she is, but this book is not about that. And like the Penderwicks’ sidekick Jeffrey, Gareth has trouble at home as well, and hanging with Binny and her family helps him forget.
This is a sweet story about friendship, family, growing up, and stretching boundaries. The characters were lovable and lovely. Six-year-old James was the most memorable. It’s not exactly stated why, but he’s not “quite right.” He insists on wearing a lime green and pink wetsuit he found in the trash (and if anyone thinks he’s a girl, he’s willing to show them proof that he’s definitely not). He greets his mom and sisters with “Hello. Don’t kiss me,” every day. He made me smile, and Binny and her older sister Clem’s patience and love for him made me proud.
I’m not crazy about the cover. This is probably a book that would appeal to more boys if the cover were a bit more neutral, but maybe not. The title didn’t say anything to me either, but I’m glad that I “had” to read this book, because I enjoyed it a lot.