Love to Everyone by Hilary McKay

I already thought Hilary McKay was a marvelous underappreciated writer, and now I think even more so! (Is she really underappreciated? Maybe not, based on awards, but it seems like no one else I know reads her books. And they should.) This will immediately draw some comparison to The War that Saved My Life. It is some solid hard core historical fiction. I am pretty curious the targeted age reader because  while it has a youngish looking cover and was in the children’s section I’m not sure the 5th graders I know would stick with this. In part because she doesn’t flinch from the realities of WWI trench warfare, and in part because these characters are followed from childhood to adulthood. Reading as an adult, though, I found this very appealing and loved discovering that I would be reading about not just a few summers in childhood, but these characters’ nearly full lives.

Clarry and her brother Peter, their cousin Rupert, their friends Simon and Vanessa. Rupert, Peter, and Simon all go to a boarding school, while Clarry struggles against and upbringing in which she’s flat out told that as a girl she needs to know nothing. Fortunately Clarry finds ways around that and loving support from those outside the family.

As a keen reader of WWI and WWII fiction I assumed from chapter one that surely one of these beloved characters would die-the only question being which one? I almost didn’t want to get too fond of the characters, but of course I ended up loving them all.  Except for Clarry’s horrible hideous cold father.
I loved watching the changing relationships and growing up and just thought this was an all around terrific book. Honestly I felt like it read almost like an adult WWI book.

As always with a WWI book I ended up feeling sad at the end because all I could think was “you lived, but any babies you have will grow up just in time for WWII and you’ll have to live it all over again.”

Binny for Short by Hilary McKay

binnyEver since I read The Exiles I’ve been a fan of Hilary McKay. She’s such a good writer, so funny, heartwarming, refreshingly honest, and British. This is a kids’ book, but I assumed too old for my kids and thus I’d read it on my own. (Besides, we’ve recently discovered her younger chapter book series about Lulu and that’s just right for read alouds.)
I love the structure of this that makes you a little uncertain what’s going on. Occasional italic chapters showing scenes of Binny and Gareth in a dangerous ocean predicament. Is it a dream? Is this going to be a sad book where her friend dies? Heroic? Who knows what. Binny is 11 or 12 and when she was 8 her dad died. If she’s honest though, she’ll tell you that what was really horrible about that year was that her beloved dog, Max, whom she’d had for less than a year, was taken away from her. Due to the declining circumstances of the family after the dad died they’ve had to move around, stay in small apartments, and have the dog stay with the grandma. But he’s too wild for her and the nasty aunt whisked him away. Thus breaking Binny’s heart and cementing her hatred for her aunt.  Binny wishes she’d die. And she does. Which is horrifying for her. The aunt has left her small seaside cottage to Binny’s family and it is there that they rebuild their lives. I just loved the characters and their quirks, the warm family, and the whole thing. It’s hard for me to describe what it is I like so much about her style, it’s just the language she uses and maybe how upfront McKay is about people being horrid.

Anyway, I loved this!