Friday, 12 June 2015
Indigo’s Star by Hilary McKay
[Friends Indigo and Tom – they are about 12 – have climbed to the library roof, and Tom is playing his guitar]
[Tom] settled against the skylight opposite Indigo’s and took out his guitar.
Time went by. It was hard to play, all hunched up against a sloping surface. Cautiously Tom stood up. He strummed gently, picking out chords and humming a little. It was a pity there was nothing to sit on, up on the roof, but he managed to get comfortable, hitching himself up against the glass. Watching Indigo all the while, he searched around for a tune, remembered the poster on the library wall, grinned, and began to sing properly.
‘Don’t look down yet, Indigo, if people passing by…’
‘Listen, Indy!’ he paused to say. ‘This is a Bob Dylan tune!’
‘…See you plastered on the sky…’
The comfortable place he had found happened to be on the top of the highest skylight. He had climbed it backwards, without even noticing.
‘They will know that you can’t fly, and start complaining!
And I think we would find it hard to quickly disappear
No place to hid up here….
On this jingle-jangle morning… now it’s raining….’
Indigo, who was already smiling, looked up in surprise and then began to laugh at the rain, that had begun falling without him even noticing, suddenly became twice as heavy.
observations: Hilary McKay gets mentioned a lot around here, because she is revered on the blog, but surprisingly this is only the second of her books to get an entry: previously she has had a role in telling CiB about the Rakonitz Chronicles, and the Chief Guest Blogger (Colm Redmond, see tab below) gave high praise to a book by another author because her books were nearly as good as McKay’s – and the author concerned came into the comments to say that this was the best praise possible. Hilary McKay (I’m sorry, I just have to tell you this) told me that she loves Clothes in Books and visits often. And in a list of some of my favourite books I included the Casson family books – here, and if I was able to give the list a long title it would be ‘books about young women growing up in amusing circumstances, and how they achieve what they want in life.’ Which is very much the Casson girls.
But only Saffy’s Angel has had an entry to itself, very early days of the blog, so it was time to put that right and move on to Casson 2, about Indigo, the only brother in the family of girls.
I don’t really know what age-group these books are aimed at, but that doesn’t matter because I am recommending them to adults. I think the Cassons are my favourite fictional family of all time, and I feel I know them as well as some of my friends. The different members remind me of people (and families) I know, but are still unique and very distinctive.
I vaguely think Indigo’s Star might be the best of the Casson books, but re-reading another might change my mind. The father of the family, Bill (‘Darling Daddy’), isn’t coming home often enough for Rose’s liking, and she sends increasingly hilarious letters to him to try to worry him and bring him back – she sees a list of ‘banned’ words, copies them, and writes:
These are the letters I learnt to spell today.
Meanwhile Indigo is having a bad time at school, and cautiously makes a friend of guitar-playing, ball-bouncing Tom, who is visiting from the USA for unclear reasons. Rose, Tom and Indigo form a team…
The books are very funny, very easy to read, and show real goodness: but they are by no means sentimental. This one deals with bullying, families splitting up, the aftermath of families splitting up, and sibling rivalry. There are glimpses of great unhappiness and misery, as well as the horrors of school. But the book is totally uplifting and hilariously funny – it is not about the bad things of life, it just tells you that these things happen, then gets on with other things.
Everyone should read these books.
The top pictures is called concert Guitar Player: it was taken by Tomas Castelazo, and made available on Wikimedia Commons.
There are a couple of different covers, and versions of Indy, available: I like this one best, to me this is what he looks like.