Binny for Short by Hilary McKay
Binny’s life had been perfect but now she lost two of the most important things she ever had. First, her father died, taking his stories along with him. Then, because money became an issue, Binny’s dog had to be given away. Her dog was taken by her mean Aunty Violet, who never told anyone where Max had been sent. So when Binny found herself alone in a car with her Aunt, she told her exactly what she thought. Aunty Violet died soon after that conversation and left Binny and her family her old cottage by the sea, a tiny house but one of their very own. Now Binny finds herself in an idyllic seaside town, meeting great new friends and even better enemies, but still missing Max. Binny though is not a girl to easily give up, so she sets about planning to find her dog, no matter what.
I am such a fan of McKay and her writing. She has a natural flow both in her narrative and in the very real voices that all of her characters use with one another. Additionally, her characters are all flawed and realistically drawn which adds greatly to the veracity of her books. In the end, her books are filled with human beings who live in messy ways through their messy lives, beautifully.
Each member of Binny’s family is worthy of their own novel. Her older sister is glamorous and musical, yet works incredibly hard to afford the necessary lessons to be a musician. She is also as much a parent as their lovely but scattered mother. It is James though, her little brother, who completely steals the book. As he wears a wetsuit that he found in the trash every day that is pink and green, he has to prove that he’s a boy often, which of course means undressing in public. He is also growing poison lettuce in his window box from stolen seeds that just happened to find their way into his pocket. In other words, he’s a delight.
Strong characters and splendid writing result in a virtuoso start to a new series that will have McKay fans cheering for more. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from copy received from Margaret McElderry Books.