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This isn’t the sort of book I would normally read but I’m glad that I did. I had it recommended to me as a fine example of a middle grade book written in the first person and getting really close in to the protagonist. It does exactly that and is an impressive debut.

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The story follows the heart-breaking – and yet uplifting – story of Miracle (Ira) and her younger brother, Zac who are ‘care kids’. They have a ‘book of memories’ that shows them on a chair with a black dog, but that’s about it. They dream of a time when they may find their mum again or of being wanted by a normal family. They expect very little out of life. It may sound too maudlin for children but it’s a real consciousness raiser for children who’ve perhaps had little reason to think much about how other, less fortunate, children grow up.

It’s set in the 1980’s which seems to be a very popular setting for a few middle grade books at the moment (Time Travelling with a Hamster comes to mind). There are Poll Tax protests and later in the book, Ira and Zac get caught-up in a riot in central London with heartrending consequences.

Despite all her problems and worries, Ira remains a stoic and likeable character. She begins the book nine years old and ends it eleven. I was a little bit surprised that the writing changed very little to show that change in age but it didn’t really effect my read too much. She and Zac start spending an increasing amount of time with a lady called, Martha but, even then, you really feel for Ira as her narration suggests that she has no expectations of where this time spent with Martha might lead. She dismisses pretty quickly any hope that begins to bloom within her. Hope does not come easily to Ira and any adult reading this book will want to hug her for it.

Overall, it’s an uplifting, thought-provoking book. Perhaps more suited to girls that boys but there’s enough there for boys to latch onto. It explores what it is to grow up in care, to hope for nothing more complicated that a family and to enjoy life when you have so much to be unhappy about.

Thankfully, there is a happy ending but it’s not an easy route for the children. Highly recommended to children (girls particularly) between 10-12.

Rating out of 5: ♦♦♦♦♦

Suggested age: 10+

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