Cuckoo in the Nest

9781405277020. ea vol: Jelly Pie/Egmont UK. 2016. pap. $9.99.
Gr 6–9—The author is perhaps best known for her 1982 Guardian Fiction Award for Good Night Mr. Tom (HarperCollins, 1981). Egmont UK is releasing her other works with new cover art. Cuckoo in the Nest and A Spoonful of Jam chronicle the day-to-day struggles of the Hollis family in post-World War II London. Cuckoo finds oldest brother Ralph Hollis fighting to reconcile his time spent in the British countryside living with an educated rector with his working-class family life in London after the war. His father, who returns home angry, has little time for Ralph's love of the theater and tries to make him fit in at the paper mill where he works. When Ralph quits to pursue his theater dreams, he opens a rift in the family that will take more than time to heal. Meanwhile, in Jam, younger sister Elsie is being bullied mercilessly by neighborhood punk Marjorie and her gang. After a particularly brutal beating, she, too, finds comfort and friendship in the theatrical life at the Palace Theater. Detailed portrayals of life in the post-war era elevate these tales above the pack of historical middle grade works. While some of the Briticisms may be confusing for Americans, the well-drawn characters quickly endear themselves to readers, and the struggles they face are relevant despite the historical setting. Magorian does not shy away from dark themes, as Ralph faces vicious, physical bullying for being a "nancy" interested in theater, while Elsie's friend Geraldine deals with her veteran father's increasing savagery at home. Despite the difficulties the Hollis children face, they still find love and comfort in their family life.
VERDICT A heartwarming look at tough issues; give the Hollis kids to fans of the Penderwick and Casson families.

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