Reading a book in the Casson family series by Hilary McKay is a unique experience. It’s kind of like being invited to dinner by the eccentric lovable Cassons, but when you show up, they have forgotten that you were coming. Dinner is not even close to ready, but you are welcome to sit down and wait.
Please, sit back and observe as Indigo Casson, an inventive young chef, cobbles something together from the random food he happens to find in the cupboard. Meanwhile, Saffron and her best friend Sarah have probably commandeered the kitchen table to do their Spanish homework. Eve, the mother of the household, has sequestered herself in the shed, happily painting away while Rose, the youngest, paints inside (to her father, Bill’s dismay, usually on the walls). If you’re lucky, you might get to see him if he is home from London for the weekend. Caddy may stop by as well, if she’s not at a wildlife reserve or off chasing her boyfriend, Michael.
Caddy’s World is the latest book in the Casson family series, but it is actual a prequel that describes the year that Caddy was twelve. This is the year that the youngest member of the Casson family is born under less than ideal conditions. The family is forced to survive without their carefree, loving mother while she stays in the hospital and must get along with their more strict, yet charming father who would much rather be in London, working in his studio.
This book focuses on Caddy, but we also follow her three best friends (Ruby, Beth, and Alison) as they try to support each other as they grow apart. McKay writes honestly about the challenges these girls face. Ruby is torn between staying close to her three best friends and taking more challenging classes that could lead to an important scholarship. Beth is unnerved by a sudden growth spurt and takes desperate measures to try to control her changing body. Alison acts out in school and breaks the dress code to try to have some control over her life. And Caddy, as anyone who has read these books would know, is caught up in family drama as usual. She is starting to have her own drama as well, which includes boys, and trying to carve out a place for herself in her hectic household.
I was surprised to find how much I enjoyed reading about events that I had already heard about in the previous books. For me, that’s a testament to the complexity of the characters and the author’s ability to create a convincing world. If the Cassons did exist, I would love to be part of their circle of friends (who they treat more like family) and get caught up in their endearing, cluttered chaos. Hilary McKay paints such a detailed portrait of this family’s life, it feels like you could just drop in on them, and although they wouldn’t know where to put you at first, they would be more than happy to have you.
Recommendation: 5 out of 5 lupines