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Review of Binny for Short

Binny for Short
by Hilary McKay; illus. by Micah Player
Intermediate    McElderry    291 pp.
7/13    978-1-4424-8275-3   $16.99
e-book ed. 978-1-4424-8277-7    $10.99

After Dad’s death, Binny (short for Belinda) Cornwallis, her sister, her brother, and their mum had no choice but to move to a smaller place. Three years later, eleven-year-old Binny has adjusted seemingly well to the loss of her father, but she’s never gotten over the loss of her dog, sent to Granny’s when they moved. And she’s never forgiven her great-aunt Violet, who took the rambunctious pup from overwhelmed Granny and gave him away. When Aunty Violet dies, the family moves into the seaside cottage she’s left them. Gareth, the boy next door, becomes Binny’s best frenemy, and the two spend hours together yelling “dare you!” — that is, when he’s not busy fighting with his dad and his stepmother-to-be. Binny and Gareth’s final adventure of the summer nearly ends in catastrophe, the story of which is meted out in italicized chapters that alternate with the main narrative. The cartoony art, which suits the book’s funnier aspects if not the seriousness of the emotion, may smooth the way for younger middle-graders challenged by the book’s time shifts. Many of McKay’s beloved character-types are here: a child raging at the unfairness of life, another whose eccentricity makes him both maddening and adorable, a kind and incredibly patient older sister. Also here is McKay’s self-assured piling-on of disasters, both troubling (three deaths; the loss of a beloved pet; a stolen bike) and comical (Binny’s little brother sneaking a chicken into his bedroom; Gareth throwing up on a Brownie troop) — all plunging headlong toward a wondrous, happy ending. McKay’s masterful control of the mayhem is ingenious; may the Cornwallis family, like the Conroys and the Cassons before them, have many adventures to come.

From the January/February 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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About Jennifer M. Brabander

Jennifer M. Brabander is former senior editor of The Horn Book Magazine.

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