The Story of Tracy Beaker by Jacqueline Wilson
Tracy Beaker, the eponymous hero of Jacqueline Wilson’s 1991 middle-fiction classic, is ten-years-old and lives in a children’s home in England. She’s waiting to be picked up by her long-absent Hollywood-starlet mum (she thinks) but in the meantime she’s hoping to be fostered by a nice, rich family (or broke, single writer). She’s also negotiating life with the other kids in the home (Weedy Peter, arch-nemesis Justine), her social worker (Elaine the pain), and her ‘behavioural problems’.
Tracy is a flawed yet relatable heroine, and her distinctive voice, which is established so well in the first half of the book, is what drives the story. As we see the world through Tracy’s eyes, the observations she makes are clever and hilarious (complemented by illustrator Nick Sharratt’s lively black and white doodles throughout the book), but also touching and a little bit sad – a perfect introduction to alternative ideas of family and childhood.
Jacqueline Wilson’s work falls under the banner of children’s realism (Tracy Beaker deals with abandoned children and absent parents, among other things), and her character-driven stories are consistently honest, funny and engaging. Wilson was UK children’s laureate from 2005–2007, and she has also won the Nestle Smarties Book Prize (for Lizzie Zipmouth and Double Act) and The Guardian Children’s Book Prize (for The Illustrated Mum). The Story of Tracy Beaker is a timeless book, and a great introduction to Wilson’s excellent writing for kids.
Kelsey Oldham is from Readings Hawthorn.