The very funny sequel to The Exiles has four often devilish British sisters devising creative ways to sponsor an African boy's education. Ages 8-12. (June)
School Library Journal
Gr 5-7-A novel with a single, simple conflict. The plot centers around Ruth, 13, who, impulsively and without her parents' knowledge, pledges 10 pounds a month to support a young boy's schooling in Africa. Desperate to raise the promised money, she enlists the help of her three younger sisters, and, for a year, they secretly work to earn, borrow, or steal the funds. This is the heart of the novel, surrounded by a few amusing incidents along the way. Neighbors, Big Grandma, the girls' parents, an elderly couple, and even the vicar become entangled in the efforts to acquire cash. In the end, their grandmother discovers their secret, and all is resolved happily-an elderly neighbor has died and left a trust fund for the boy and money for the girls to visit Africa. There just is no meat to this story. There is little that distinguishes the Conroy sisters from one another, as none of them are developed as individuals. Also, characterizations of the minor characters are clichd. To add to the confusion, the meaning of the title will not be clear to those who haven't read The Exiles (McElderry, 1992), and some readers may have difficulty with the British terminology and colloquialisms.-Lucinda Lockwood, Thomas Haney Secondary School, Maple Ridge, BC
A sequel to "The Exiles" (1992), which concerned the four Conroy sisters' summer in Cumbria, this novel takes up their story just before Christmas and details their adventures through the following year. The understated humor and true-to-life characters recall Nesbit's novels about the Bastable children and Cleary's Ramona books, but Ruth, Naomi, Rachel, and Phoebe Conroe are originals, falling into their own idiosyncratic predicaments and muddling their way out again. In this novel, 12-year-old Ruth rashly signs up to sponsor an African boy's schooling at £10 a month and then finds out her mother disapproves of the program. The problem of earning the money and sending it off secretly each month leads Ruth and her younger sisters into an episodic saga of gain, loss, and redemption. With four girls in the spotlight, center stage gets a little crowded, but even minor figures emerge as memorable, believable characters. Refreshing for its wit and emotional candor, this sequel will leave readers hoping for more.
Hilary McKay is the award-winning author of many beloved novels, such as Saffy's Angel -- which was the winner of the Whitbread Award, an ALA Notable Book, a Boston Globe -- Horn Book Honor Book, and a School Library Journal Best Book of 2002 -- as well as several picture books, including Was That Christmas?, also illustrated by Amanda Harvey. Hilary lives with her family in Derbyshire, England.