Monday, December 22, 2014
Book Review: Following Flora by Natasha Farrant (2014)
The characters in this series are so well-realized that the plots of the books are almost irrelevant. So many things are going on in Following Flora, to the point that there isn't really one main thread to follow, but it doesn't matter because the chaos is part of the fun of reading about this quirky family. Few family stories for kids are as honest as this one about the way parents and siblings really act with one another. While this book is by no means dark and dreary, it also doesn't pretend that life is an endless parade of sunshine and lollipops. Middle school readers in particular appreciate this type of honesty, and it is perfectly handled by Natasha Farrant.
Often books like this which include transcripts of video make those sections of the book feel like gimmicky filler, but in Following Flora, as in After Iris, they are used perfectly to further the action of the various subplots. The really nice thing about having a camera's eye view of the action is that each member of the Gadsby family is able to assert his or her personality in just a few lines instead of the author spending pages and pages on describing each one. Because the family is so dramatic and chaotic, it only makes sense for them to act out their shenanigans on film, and for Blue, the quietest of the bunch, to be the one behind the lens.
Following Flora reminds me a lot of Anne Fine's The True Story of Christmas, in that it brings family dysfunction to life in a way that is realistic and humorous at the same time. (Why are British authors always so good at that?) The interactions between the siblings also echoes the way the girls talk to each other in The Penderwicks, but the adult characters are much less stereotypically good in the Gadsby books. Readers who enjoy Hilary McKay's Casson family will be enamored of the Gadsbys in the same way, and everyone who reads this book will immediately start counting down to when the next book is out.