Published by: Maverick, 28th Sep 2020
When Maverick Publishing offered me the chance to review the latest novel by Jenny Moore I jumped at the chance. Following the success of Agent Starling:Operation Baked Beans and Audrey Orr and the Robot Rage, which was selected to be part of the Summer Reading Challenge 2020, I knew I would be in for an exciting and quirky read.
I wasn't disappointed! Yet there is no whiff of historical time travel or robot clones in this novel. Instead, Jenny Moore shows off the extent of her wide-ranging ideas by plunging us into the heart of an everyday family home.
Noel and his super-smart sister, Bauble have an unusual family set-up. After losing their father at a young age, they only have their mum and their gay uncles next door to depend on. But when Bauble insists that she has seen Mummy kissing Santa Claus in August, Noel is baffled. Convinced that their dad may be alive after all and assuming a special secret identity, excited Noel and Bauble turn detective. But the secrets they uncover prove to be far more shocking and unexpected than they imagined.
Bauble, Me and the Family Punch packs an emotional, heartfelt punch right from the get-go. Although it is not unusual for main characters in children's fiction to have lost one or both parents, this whole novel explores the grief and impact that such a loss can cause. Noel's early memory of his mum holding his baby sister under the wishing bow is both raw and heart-wrenching, as is his blind hope that his father is still alive. Jenny Moore shows through a child's eyes how the sadness of losing a loved one never fades and woven through the chapters are some truly touching and beautifully written moments (and letters).
Aside from grief, the novel also takes a deep dive into 'unconventional' family set-ups, portraying the very important message that a family filled with love is all that matters. Noel and Bauble are faced with a backlash of secrets - kept by flawed but well-meaning adults- and embark on a painful, emotional rollercoaster to uncover the truth. Yet out of the darkness comes light and new beginnings with the promise of a hopeful, if not 'normal' future - and one that thousands of young readers will be able to relate to.
And if that all sounds a bit heavy, then think again because Jenny Moore does quirkiness by the bucket load. Okay, so there may not be the odd combination of nappy pins and baked beans in this one (see Agent Starling) but there is a healthy dose of food bikinis, Santa hats...oh and eight-legged races (I lost count!) to finish.
This novel stirs emotion and empathy. It makes you laugh and then cry with the turn of a page. I love the child-centred perspective too. It feels like a child is writing for other children with a deep authenticity and the relationship between Noel and Bauble is great. It is a big-issue book told with heart, soul, humour and complete originality.
Bauble, Me and the Family Tree is released on the 28th September 2020 and is available for pre-order.
A big thankyou to Maverick for allowing me the chance to review.
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