I’m boggled to see that it’s been nearly all of three years since I read the first in Hilary McKay’s series about the loving, chaotic Casson family, Saffy’s Angel. I loved it in 2009, and I said I’d read sequels if there were any, and here I am, following up on that promise. I read Indigo’s Star, and it was absolutely just as wonderful as the first in the series.
In this book, nothing has been settled for the Cassons, exactly. Saffron is settled into her permanent place in the family, but the relationship between Eve, the gentle and hapless artistic mother, and Bill, the father who spends all his time in London, is so strained as to be nonexistent. Caddy is too tender-hearted to shake off any of her boyfriends, and Rose is becoming a fiercer artist every day. Worst of all, gentle, pacific Indigo is being bullied at school.
Into this set of changing, shifting, loving relationships falls Tom, an American boy who’s visiting Indigo’s class for the year. Tom has his own family problems, but he is willing enough to ignore them for a while so that he can help Indigo (and Indigo’s crazy family) with theirs. The Cassons sort of envelop him, as they did with Sarah from the first book (Saffy’s best friend), and he becomes part of the family; the definition of true family is elastic for the Cassons, which is part of the charm.
There are some serious things happening in this book, but they happen in a wry, gentle way, not heavy-handedly. These books are funny and sad and sweet-hearted, with everyone trying hard to do the right thing, even when they miss the boat because they’re, say, eight, or terribly absent-minded, or selfish, or in love. Grand gestures actually do sometimes solve problems, and so do small loving ones, and so does persistence.
I love books about real families. While many of my favorite children’s and young adult books do involve magic, I think my very favorite ones are about real children doing the things families do. These books about the Cassons must sneak into the very top of this category. They are marvelous. I can’t wait to read more of them.