Reviews provided by Syndetics
Library Journal Review
Gr 4-6-Charlotte (Charlie) Enright thinks her first day of school will be "Easy-peasy, simple-pimple"-until she meets her new teacher. Miss Beckworth is a no-nonsense type, whereas outspoken Charlie likes to play the class clown. To make matters worse, Miss Beckworth assigns seats alphabetically and Charlie ends up sitting next to Jamie Edwards, the perennial teachers' pet. This year, the class is focusing on the Victorian period; each student is required to do a special project on the era. When Charlie spots a photograph of a nurserymaid about her age, she names her Lottie and writes a diary from the servant's point of view. Lottie's fictional diary entries alternate with Charlie's own story, with the former adding historical detail, and both narratives reflecting the changes in the girl's life. And things are changing for Charlie: her single mother loses her job and becomes romantically involved with the father of the child she now baby-sits, her best friends are suddenly boy crazy, and she finds out that Jamie isn't all that bad after all. Wilson has written a funny, thoughtful novel with a well-developed main character. Charlie's emotions and reactions are true to life-frustration, jealousy, and uncertainty about the future. By turns poignant and humorous, this book is a winner. Sharratt's entertaining pen-and-ink illustrations are scattered throughout, highlighting details from the text.-Terrie Dorio, Santa Monica Public Library, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
Wilson (Double Act) here introduces an animated heroine who delivers droll observations in a self-assured voice with a decidedly British accent. "I love fooling around, doing crazy things and being a bit sassy and making everyone laugh," announces Charlie (short for Charlotte). Her engaging prattle chronicles events at school--where she tangles with her teacher, bickers with her best friends and works on a project about Victorian life--as well as happenings at home. Charlie's newly unemployed single mother takes on three part-time positions, the most notable being a job as caregiver for a youngster who lives with his father. Much to the girl's chagrin, her mother takes a fancy to her employer. Their evolving relationship provides the backdrop for the novel's most dramatic and poignant scenes, in which Wilson reveals her ability to elicit tears as well as laughter. Between chapters, readers find reproduced "pages" from Charlie's school report--journal-like entries written by a poor Victorian girl who leaves home to help support her family. Wilson creatively reshapes Charlie's own experiences to depict the plight of a girl living 100 years earlier, thus adding new dimension to Charlie's perceptions while offering intriguing period particulars. Sharratt's lively, doodled spot drawings further reinforce the protagonist's view of life, both present and past. To borrow a phrase from Charlie, it would be "easy peasy, simple pimple" to welcome her back. Ages 8-12. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Gr. 4^-6. Wilson, the author of Double Act (1997), offers another catchy story that's set in England but full of universal emotions. Charlotte, who is called Charlie by everyone but her teacher, Miss Beckworth, lives with her young, single mother, Jo. Jo has done a good job of showing her disapproving parents that she can raise Charlie alone, but when Jo loses her job, the situation becomes more tenuous. There's a lot going on in this story. Charlie must contend with Miss Beckworth, decide how she feels about a certain boy, and plot against a romance when Jo takes a job baby-sitting for the son of a recently divorced dad. As if all that weren't enough, Charlie's project on the Victorians is a diary she writes as Lottie, a servant girl, and her hand-written pages appear after every few chapters. In the hands of a less-talented writer, this might have been a jumbled mess; with Wilson shaping it, the story is both fun and funny. Charlie's voice is clear and true, and the many line drawings Wilson adds to the margins of the texts are amusing bits. Readers will know this kid. --Ilene Cooper
Horn Book Review
(Intermediate) For readers drawn to light historical fiction, this British import offers an interesting twist. For her school project on the Victorians, eleven-year-old Charlie (short for Charlotte) creates a diary written by Lottie, her nineteenth-century alter ego, who must work as a nursery maid to support her widowed mother and siblings. Chapters alternate between Charlie's funny, chatty first-person narrative-concerned with school, home, and her mother's new boyfriend-and Lottie's earnest journal entries recording her life as a domestic servant. In assuming this fictional persona, Charlie reflects on changes in her life while offering readers a different perspective from her own blustery, opinionated one. Though she seems to take it all in stride, Charlie, like Lottie, is no stranger to economic woes. She and her single-parent mom, Jo, no sooner finish celebrating their move up and out of the housing projects than Jo is unexpectedly laid off. She finds work to make ends meet, but just as Charlie thinks things are settling down, Jo begins dating Mark, the divorced father of five-year-old Robin. Charlie takes her anger out on all involved, realizing she's gone too far when Robin runs away because of one of her thoughtless comments. Reactions to Charlie's behavior, though difficult for her, are realistic; even after Robin is found, Mark doesn't completely forgive her. Black-and-white line drawings, inter-spersed throughout the text, match the book's informal tone and help lighten some of the more serious moments. Charlie's creative writing is a gentle endorsement for using one's imagination to work through problems. Readers will empathize with many of the situations Charlie copes with and appreciate the message that, as in life, all loose ends may not be tied up at the end, but we can take what we've learned and carry on from there. k.f. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Book Review
Charlie likes her life, and would like everything to stay just as it is, but Fate has other plans for her: a strict new teacher, Miss Beckworth (who insists on calling her Charlotte), a different seat assignment (next to Jamie Edwards), and a mother who's acting as if her new employer is more than just a friend. As Charlie's perfect life starts to unravel, she takes refuge in a school project, composing the diary of a Victorian nursery maid named Lottie whose life has roots in Charlotte's own, e.g, she has a teacher named Miss Worthbeck. Although US readers may be unfamiliar with some of the Briticisms, the tone and content of Charlie's conversations with her friends and her mother are spot on and instantly recognizable. The small, black-and-white, cartoon-like drawings scattered throughout the book serve as graphic exclamation points for Charlie's ongoing struggles to master her emotions and adjust to change. Funny, incisive, and true to life, this book introduces a heroine who is easy to root for'she's a terrific combination of feisty and fragile. (Fiction. 9-12)