Sunday, 8 November 2009

Wishing For Tomorrow by Hilary McKay (Children's, 9 years +, 10E/10E)

September 2009, Hodder Children's
265 pages, Paperback PROOF copy (missing illustrations plus some content could be a bit different to the published copy. Published copy is a Hardback edition)
Review Copy

The story of A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett was published 1904. I never realised it was so old. It's a timeless tale of how a rich girl, Sara, enters Miss Minchkin's boarding school. Spoilt rotten by her father, she ends up as a maid when her father dies leaving behind a legacy of debt. Her imagination gets her through the tough times, as does the mysterious appearance of luxury in her pokey attic room. It turns out that her father's riches still exist, and upon regaining her status she leaves the school.

Hilary McKay, like many readers and writers wondered what happened next to the girls left behind at Miss Minchkin's. Thus Wishing for Tomorrow was born, detailing the story of the girls. Primarily the story follows the life of Ermengarde, who befriended Sara at the school. It includes a look back of how Ermengarde felt when she first met Sarah. She was happy with Sara, and now her friend is gone she gets a bit depressed. Through lots of letters she keeps Sara informed of her current life, letters which are written in a different font and that are highly entertaining. By the end of the book Ermendgarde has matured a lot. She realises how she acted towards Sara was a little childish.

However, no one can be more childish than the tearaway Lottie! I haven't been able to re-read A Little Princess, but I remember Lottie being a handful. That is an understatement to how she acts in Wishing for Tomorrow. Ermengarde has been asked by Sara to keep an eye on Lottie, and to try and keep her out of trouble. I nearly had tears pouring down my face at Lottie's behaviour. She's a little minx!

A funny snippet is when Ermengarde listens to Lottie praying.

Page 68 [Ermengarde writes in her letter to Sara] 'And so I went up and she was hopping around on one leg saying she was a flamingo and her prayer was:

Dear God
I think I would rather be the only green flamingo in the world
Than pink.

[Lottie carries on saying:] Nothing happened to her! I am sure if I ever prayed a prayer like that I would be struck down dead.
I said this to Lottie.
'God is used to me,' said Lottie. [End of quote].

I'm sure you're smiling after reading that line! The charming Lottie causes the incident at the end of the book, not that anyone really blames her for it - accidents happen. As a result of the accident bossy Lavinia turned bookworm gets what she wants (a private tutor), and the girls end up a lot happier outside of Miss Minchkin's.

From the entertaining Jessica (who I didn't remember at all from A Little Princess), to the new maid Alice who cuts corners in her duty, the characters are all memorable in their own way. Hilary's depiction of Bosco the cat is a must read. This cat sees humans as his slaves - which is exactly how cats behave in real life. Here's a small extract of Bosco's view of life:

page 227 (page numbers may be different in the published copy) 'Bosco could light fires by willpower. [No, he doesn't have a special ability. He is just a sensible cat] He could also fill food dishes and empty his favourite chair by the same useful force. His method was simple: he sat and gazed at the object to be controlled. It always worked; sooner or later, some human slave would come along and notice his implacable, golden stare.'

Sara does make an appearance, mostly through letters, but also at the end during the incident which changes the girls' lives forever. Her time of being poor served its purpose and she appreciates the luxury she's now kept in.

I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about how the characters viewed Sara, especially Miss Minchkin and her sister. Poor Miss Minchkin feels haunted by Sara, all thanks to Ermengarde's adoption of Sara's cloak. I definitely want to read A Little Princess again with these views in mind.

Hilary McKay has done an excellent job of writing a sequel for the timeless classic A Little Princess. It's got me wondering what will happen next in the girls' lives - maybe she will write another book in this series.

Hilary McKay's website is here.

Like this? Make sure you read the original A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett.


Chicklish said...

It's great to read this detailed and interesting review - thank you! Hilary McKay is a great writer.

Rose Works Jewelry said...

Oh I'm so sad that my library doesn't have this!