Kids' Book Club: Cookie By Jacqueline Wilson

07/09/2012 17:23 | Updated 22 May 2015

I'm 33 years old and I've been a Jacqueline Wilson addict since I was 10.

I loved Jacqueline Wilson's early books like Waiting for the Sky to Fall and This Girl when I was growing up (her 1980s/early 90s books are now tragically out of print but you can find them second-hand).

Now, to my delight, I'm discovering her more famous books for a new generation - like The Story of Tracy Beaker, about a girl in a children's home; Girls Under Pressure, about anorexia; and Cookie, about domestic abuse (and a lot more besides).

Wilson remains so wise, witty and moving. And the illustrations by Nick Sharratt. now in each book, exactly capture the world of the 12-year-old.

Wilson always was a popular children's writer, but these days she's an institution: a Dame, the children's laureate from 2005-7, and the most borrowed author of the last 10 years in our libraries.

A mixture of the angst of Judy Blume (but with modern British grit) and the magical, semi-moral imagination of Roald Dahl (but more feminine), she is consistently unputdownable.

The way she taps into the mind of the adolescent girl, on the border between innocence and insolence, is extraordinary. Certain themes Wilson returns to again and again with her heroines - they are always young girls with serious challenges in their lives. Often the heroine comes from a difficult home. Some families are broken or live in poverty; others are materialistic and abusive. Bullying and unpopularity are problems nearly every heroine struggles against. Some hate the way they look. Some face tragic illnesses.

But as grim and lonely as real life can be, Jacqueline Wilson also shows young readers a sweet and hopeful side of life. Her heroines, despite often impossibly tough circumstances, are all sensitive dreamers with rich imaginations which help them find their way out of their troubles and overcome some pretty awful adult behaviour.

It's the complexity of character - neither angelic nor bad, but real - that makes her heroines loveable and helps young readers understand the moral that even troubled people have been made that way.

For instance, Tracy Beaker is the worst-behaved girl in the children's home; perhaps even a bit of a bully - but she's got no love, no privacy and she's bitterly aware of the fact no one wants to foster her. She feels extremely sorry for herself - and the fact that she's a bit of a drama queen only makes us feel even sorrier for her.

I think my favourite of the new Wilson books I've read is Cookie. It's a classic Wilson. Beauty is a girl of about 11 who's worried she doesn't live up to her name. She's being bullied at school and she and her mother are both tiptoeing around her extremely mean father. Beauty has a wonderful fantasy life about bunnies but she doesn't want to be babied. When Beauty gets given a rabbit for her birthday, her father's reaction is terrifying and Beauty's terrible discovery had me in tears. But the book ends happily.

There may not ever be a fairytale ending in Jacqueline Wilson's books, but there's an adolescent idealism in each heroine which carries her, and the reader, through.


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