Ten-year-old Darcy sees the extraordinary in the everyday and the wonder in the world around her. This second book sees Darcy move-up to Big School - and all of a sudden EVERYTHING changes. Her best friend Will isn't sure he should talk to girls anymore, her new teacher may in actual fact be a cauldron-bubbling witch and, horror of horrors, her precious pet Lamb-Beth goes missing. Can Darcy face these challenges head-on, armed only with her curious, whip-smart mind and eye for a story?
Warning: this review is likely to include huge amounts of gushing and could possibly cause you to overdose on superlatives! Yes, Darcy Burdock: Hi So Much is flippin' brilliant. In fact, impossible it may seem to all who have read the first Darcy Burdock book, this follow-up is even brillianter.
Laura Dockrill's debut book for children, Darcy Burdock, was my Book of the Year for 2013 and I have been waiting impatiently for this sequel ever since and so the moment I saw it appear on Netgalley I immediately clicked on the request button. This was a Saturday so I had to endure more suffering until my request was approved on Monday, but then I downloaded it and read it from cover to cover. It was exactly what the doctor ordered (I've been suffering from man flu since last Wednesday) and it was the perfect pick-me-up. It is better than the first book is pretty much every way - funnier, (even) more imaginative, more touching... the list goes on and on.
The book begins with five chapters of pure, unadulterated, delightful Darcy-ness, as we are reintroduced to Darcy and her family. And it is a truly lovely family - not the kind you see in many children's books as their relationships with each other are warm, and fuzzy and very, very loving Darcy, and chez Burdock there isn't a villainous adult anywhere in sight. Not even a grumpy old grandparent (gran is just as much fun as the rest of the family). However, all is not fine and dandy in Darcy's world as she is totally dreading her imminent start at 'Big School'. She is worried about the big kids, the homework and the uniform (the shoes, in particular, are a major concern as they are so... 'dompy'). In fact, all the things that every 11-year-old worries about just before they start 'Big School'. Naturally, Darcy tries to come to terms with this massive change in her life by writing a story - about a friendless and insecure creature called 'the Dompy'.
Darcy Burdock: Hi So Much is a book that should be essential reading for every child about to start at secondary school. It covers so many different issues that cause stress and upset for children at this significant moment in their growing up: friendships (making new friends and also how to cope when long-time friendships start to falter, especially when this is a girl/boy friendship); being true to yourself and not trying to be someone you're not, just to impress new people; and prejudice.
This latter one may seem like a meaty subject for a Darcy Burdock book, but it is obviously something that Laura Dockrill feels very strongly about. When Darcy is selected to work on the school's on the merit of the quality of her creative writing (a first for a Year 7), a rather odious boy does little but mock Darcy and pigeon-hole her as a useless girl who can surely have little to offer but useless opinions on hair and make-up. In a world where it is becoming increasingly difficult to enter any supermarket these days without seeing aisles of toys labelled 'Toys for Boys' or 'Toys for Girls', and children therefore having the age old stereotypes enforced on them from such a young age, it is a delight to see this handled so cleverly in a book for 9+ kids.
Another stand-out message that is delivered to kids in this book, without ever being preachy, is that it is fine to follow your dream or your passion in life. in Darcy's case, this is writing, and she gets nothing but encouragement from every adult in her life. More than this, she is actively encouraged to deal with the various turmoils in her life by using her writing as the means to a solution to each problem that comes her way. For another child it might be dance, music, sport, reading, painting - whatever the interest is should be nurtured and encouraged (making this an ideal read for parents as well). So many more kids would be happier with their lives if their parents showed the same attitude and support that Darcy's show to her.
I re-read the first Darcy Burdock book several times last year - occasionally for medicinal purposes - and I have a feeling that this follow-up is going to share a similar fate over the next twelve months (unless we are fortunate enough to have a third book sooner than that - rumour has it there may be a book 3 out in July). If you have a 9+ child who is yet to discover Darcy Burdock then you MUST get these books into their hands asap - boy or girl it really doesn't matter - and make sure you have a read once they have finished. You really won't regret it!