Book Author: Jaqueline Wilson
Genre: Children, Realism
First Published: 4th August 2011
Star Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
hospital after giving birth to her little brother. It is an emotionally gripping story that deals with unexpected illness in a way children can understand and is such a relief after my experience with Midnight. I feel that Wilson’s usual story progression is seen through this book and the quality of writing is so much better.
Before reading this book, my first impression was that this book was going to be set for very young readers, around the 5-7 year age, due to the tirle. But I was wrong, it is for any age really, child or not.
The title is a reference to the protagonist’s obsession and as a metaphor for the feelings and struggles Ella and her stepfather are faced with.
Ella’s mom is in a coma not long after giving birth to the new baby, Samson and has to live with her stepfather, Jack, who she doesn’t get on with. Ella sees Jack as someone trying to replace her dad and like any little girl, wishes that fairy tales were real. She also blames her brother for her mother’s coma.
But when she makes new friends at school and starts to learn more about whales, things start to change in ways that Ella can only hope means light at the end of the dark tunnel.
The Plot and Narration
This book’s plot is welded together so well that you wouldn’t believe it is the same author who wrote Midnight. It tells an emotional story of a child who has all of these changes going on at the same time and she doesn’t know what to do, who to blame and how to help.
Ella’s mom goes into hospital with eclampsia and falls into a coma. Before her mom goes into hospital, Ella has already had to deal with some changes. Her parents have split up, her dad lives with another woman, her mom has a new boyfriend and they have recently moved house. On top of this, her mom is expecting a baby. So when her mom goes into hospital, Ella has lost the one thing that has not changed. She doesn’t know how to cope and this adds tension between Ella and Jack, her stepdad.
The plot focuses on Ella’s struggles and the conflicts this leads her in, including an argument with her best friend. It shows that even young children can have worries and struggle to cope with what is worrying but it also demonstrates that there is a friend just around the corner. Even in the most unexpected places.
If you are looking for a story that pulls at the heartstrings but tells you that no matter what happens, things will eventually be okay, and not to give up believing, then I recommend this book.
I also feel that the language used by Ella would make the issues she faces understandable to the children who might read this book. They will empathise with her, or possibly relate and this book will encourage them to be understanding of certain situations.
There was a hilarious scene where Ella was spending time with her biological dad that made me smile because I know I’ve been in this situation myself. Ella’s favourite food is sausage so her father buys her Cumberland sausage. Ella’s never heard of, or tried Cumberland sausage before. At first she thinks, it’s sausage, that’s good. But I am sure most of you are aware this sausage tastes different to the pork sausage we normally have with mash. She tries it and doesn’t like the taste only she doesn’t know how to explain to her dad that she doesn’t like something she said was her favourite food.
It made me smile because I hate Cumberland sausage, the first time I tried it I thought it was the way the pub served the sausage, not the sausage itself, now I know better and avoid it whenever I see it on the pub menu and I could really connect with Ella here.
Unlike the characters in Midnight, Ella, Jack and the minor characters are well drawn-up and mostly believable. They are rounded and full of life.
Ella starts to obsess about whales after learning about them in school, something I imagine any child does, especially under stress. Even adults obsess over things and under stress, adults are likely to find a distraction in something like music or art.
Ella goes through a lot of challenges in this book that changes her at the end. One of these challenges is friendship. At hard times, friends can sometimes struggle to understand why a person is upset, which Ella learns when her best friend ditches her, makes a new friend and claims Ella to be too depressing.
But light is around the corner when she makes a new friend with the person she least expected. The nerdy boy in class. However, the issue I have with Ella’s character is that she is illustrated with no common sense.
Ella’s playing a game during one of her swimming days and there is an incident where she does not realise she has gone too far. She almost drowns. Any child, even at her age would be aware of it. Children are smarter than what adults give them credit for.
Jack is also a rounded character. New to parenting life, he doesn’t know how to take Ella any more than she knows how to take him. He’s aware that she is unhappy with him being her stepdad and being left alone with her while her mom is in a coma is confusing for him.
He tries everything to reach out to her and even tries to get hold of her biological dad to see if he could help. This turns out to be a total failure but also brings out a funny scene where Ella tells her dad to kiss her coma-induced mom in the hope that it would wake her up.
I loved this book, despite originally expecting it to be for 5-7 year olds. It kept me engaged, I wanted to know that Ella would be okay, what would happen to her mom and how things would change between Ella and Jack.
I think this book is perfect for all ages, including adults. It is an emotional read, with good, strong characters and some funny scenes to release the tension.
Have you read this book? What are your thoughts?
Would you like to guest post on Little Sea Bear? Please feel free to contact us here, on Facebook or on Twitter. Follow us on social media or the Monthly Newsletter.There may be some free downloads in the future.