Ailsa Wild (text), Ben Wood (illus), Squishy Taylor and the Bonus Sisters (Squishy Taylor #1), Hardie Grant Egmont, 1 Feb 2016, 128pp., $12.99 (pbk), ISBN: 9781760126759
Ailsa Wild (text), Ben Wood (illus), Squishy Taylor and a Question of Trust (Squishy Taylor #2), Hardie Grant Egmont, 1 Feb 2016, 128pp., $12.99 (pbk), ISBN: 9781760126766
Ailsa Wild’s new series a feisty, curious, mischievous and brave Melbourne girl named Squishy Taylor, who enjoys practical jokes and solving mysteries. What sets this series apart from the many other girl adventure series for 7-9 year olds, is that Squishy lives in a blended family and the stories have a focus on her relationships within this family. This will be relevant to the many other girls in similar family arrangements.
The tone of the stories is playful and cheerful as Squishy faces challenges head on and is upbeat about her ability to overcome her difficulties– settling into her new family arrangements and missing her mother who is working in Geneva for a few months. Squishy manages conflict and jealousies with the step sisters with warmth and humour, as well as a good dose of compromise. Her mystery solving antics are far-fetched and implausible but add to the suspense of the stories. The adventures she shares with her twin sisters also provide the background for developing the relationships between the three girls.
Much humour is derived from Squishy’s tendency to jump to conclusions in her sleuthing endeavours, the pranks the girls plan and the mishaps that they encounter. Her Skype conversations with her intelligent, witty mother are another source of humour.
In the first book in the series, Squishy Taylor and the Bonus Sisters, Squishy discovers a mysterious boy hiding in the basement of their apartment block. Is his name really John Smith and why has he run away from home? Can the girls help him without breaking the promise not to reveal his whereabouts? There is also a side story about the girls’ schemes to exact revenge against their bad tempered neighbour, Mr Hinkenbushel.
The second book in the series, Squishy Taylor and a Question of Trust, sees Squishy with a hunch that Mr Hinkenbushel is involved in the illegal diamond smuggling operation which is the current media headline story. There is an interesting twist to the story’s ending as we discover the truth of Mr Hinkenbushel’s involvement with this crime as well as the reason for “Boring Lady” being at her office desk at 2am.
The books make for interesting, lively reading for 7-9 year old girls. With all female protagonists (Squishy’s father is a minor character) it is aimed squarely at the female market. The text consists of mostly short sentences and large print, peppered with word art and illustrations which provide reading breaks, to make this book an excellent choice for newly confident readers who have started to read short chapter books.
Reviewed by Barbara Swartz