The Butterfly Club ISBN: 9780552569934
Published by Corgi, 2016
The amazing Jacqueline Wilson has done it again! Time after time she proves her remarkable ability to picture relationships in ways that are truthful and often subtle. In this long (371 pp) and meaty novel, we meet triplets, Phil, Maddie and Tina, all very close friends as well as sisters, and their parents are lovely and supportive too. In fact, mum, Phil and Maddie are too supportive of Tina, the tiny one of the trio. Tina was born very small and with a heart defect. She had to have surgery and to stay in hospital for some time, and since then, she has always had to be careful - no contact sports, etc. Mum overprotects her, as do the two girls, and one of the very subtle aspects of the story is that dad tries to treat her more normally. Grandparents come into the story too, and are wonderfully drawn characters, particularly the granddad. Told by Tina, the explanation of her start in life comes from her and so is written in easily understood language; we learn from the beginning of the book that she has come to expect - and even welcome - the overprotection that her mum and sisters give her and that she somewhat plays up to it. When the three girls start Junior School at 7, they expect to be always together as they were in Infants, so that Tina gets all the protection she needs. However, their new teacher, Miss Lovejoy, is very strict and splits the girls up on different tables. Tina is horrified, particularly because she is sat next to Selma Johnson, a big girl who is the class bully. Selma is really unpleasant. A loner (no one else will play with her) she takes every opportunity to make Tina unhappy - and this is all too easy to do. Tina also has problems with her school work. Having always had lots of help at home, she isn't very good at many things, except drawing and painting. She is really good at that, and gradually, gradually the triplets begin to make separate friends and to go their separate ways. It is not that they forget Tina. They always want to protect her, but the strict Miss Lovejoy, with some of that subtlety mentioned earlier, feels that they need to be separated and that Tina needs to learn to cope on her own. Even mum's coming to school to complain that the girls have never been separated before and that Tina needs them, doesn't wash with Miss Lovejoy. Tina has learned to love butterflies because of a trip to a butterfly farm at the zoo, and this interest is soon turned into a major interest. During a serious bout of pneumonia, when Tina must be at home for some weeks, Miss Lovejoy brings her a gift, a notebook, a set of pencils, and a book about butterflies. Tina starts to learn lots about them, and because of her interest, begins to do much better in her school work. Meanwhile, Selma continues very unpleasant. One day, the triplets' mum sees Selma being beaten around the head by her mother, and the whole family is horrified. The suspicion that Selma's home life is not all it should be becomes even more so when Tina goes to tea at her house and meets her very unpleasant stepfather. One of the strengths of this story is that we see why Selma is as she is, and while she will always be bossy and spiky, she is capable of great friendship and love for Tina, which in time proves a great boon to them both. How that friendship comes about and grows is due to the redoubtable Miss Lovejoy, who, as we have suspected early on, is really a sweetie and a very insightful character. It is down to her that the three sisters begin to make their individual lives important, each in her own way (and those ways are quite different). This really superb book will be beloved by young girls, as all of Wilson's are, and will prove of real use to children who experience health problems and are over-protected because of them.