In The School Story by Andrew Clements (Simon amp; Schuster pound;9.99), Natalie lives alone with her mother, an editor in a publishing house. When she writes a great story, she and her friend Zoe enlist the help of their English teacher to get the book accepted by Natalie's mother's firm, without her mother discovering the author's identity. The elaborate scam is well thought out and entirely credible and the relationships at home, in school and at work are accurately portrayed. The tension is well built, and everyone, including the reader, comes out smiling.
Alice McKinley, the almost teenage protagonist in The Agony of Alice (Simon amp; Schuster pound;4.99), lives with her father and 19-year-old brother. Her lack of a suitable female role model occupies much of her waking hours: her teacher, the pear-shaped Mrs Plotkin, won't do. Alice records her feelings in a diary throughout sixth grade (Year 6). At the end of this warm insightful book she has grown into a caring young woman and learnt, among other things, that beauty is only skin deep.
Fiona Lafferty is librarian at St Swithun's junior school, Winchester