Me and the School (Un)Fair by Karen McCombie is one in a series of transitional books for girls aged 7-10 by author Karen McCombie. McCombie’s traditional audience is girls aged 10 and up, and she has penned a large number of novels for older girl/teens.
These books are, presumably to ensure she captures a pre-teen market and so that her books and name can be more easily introduced into a primary school setting.
Indie Kidd (excuse the terrible pun) is a ten year old girl who lives with her mother, but still maintains a close relationship with her father, his new wife and their son, Dylan. The books are written from Indie’s point of view and are about her day to day life in school and at home, with her family and with her friends.
In this book Indie wants to get a special certificate from the head at school for doing something brilliantly well. A chance comes up to choose a theme for the school fete, which is being run to raise funds for a new gym.
When this doesn’t work quite as planned, Indie is determined to find a different way to succeed, and with the help of her friends and family and inspiration from the animal rescue centre where her mum works, Indie gets her wish.
The books are saved from being rather saccharine by a nice sense of humour which sees Indie’s path never runs entirely smoothly. I also like the fact that McCombie introduces a touch of realism here and there. I liked the part where Indie comments about her dad not being entirely comfortable in her mum’s house, even though he used to live there. It’s just a subtle hint of more a more complex reality than the one Indie focuses on, but one which means that there is a bit more meat on the bone in these books than in others of the same kind of calibre.
If you have a child who likes books like the Clarice Bean series by Lauren Child, these would be good to offer to them as an alternative, or if they’ve finished those and are looking around for something else.
The illustrations by Lydia Monk, who is perhaps best known for her picture book work, particularly her collaborations with Julia Donaldson, give these books an appeal and accessibility to newly confident child readers. The chapters are short and easy to work through and the entire book is not particularly long. A confident child who is engaged in the story could read it in no time.
The books are clearly marketed for girls, but if you got past the front cover there is enough here to keep an open minded boy reader busy and entertained. The focus is not too girly, and there are a range of interesting boy characters that work very well.