Rated Reads

The Casson Family series

by Hilary McKay

Rated: Mild

Saffy’s Angel, Indigo’s Star, Permanent Rose, Caddy Ever After, Forever Rose

Every once in a while, a literary character or family comes along that just captures your imagination in ways that make them seem real, characters — like Anne Shirley, the March family, Betsy and Tacy, Dorothy, or the Pevensies — whom you love and adore and whose books you read over and over again because you need to visit with them time and time again.

The Casson family is one of those families.

The heart and soul of the books, of course, are the Cassons. There’s dad Bill — a Posh Artist living in London because he cannot handle the chaos of his home, and who is also a bit of a cad — and mom Eve — a not-so-posh artist, who loves the chaos, and often contributes to it, and paints/lives in the shed in the back yard when not teaching art to Young Offenders. Then there’s the children, all named after paint colors: Cadmium, or Caddy, the eldest; Saffron, or Saffy, the daughter of Eve’s sister who was absorbed into the family after her mom’s death; Indigo, the only boy and very protective of his sisters; and Rose, the baby, the heart and soul and humor and life of the family. They are people you want to know, want to spend time with, and are thoroughly entranced by.

The five books cover about four or five years, and deal with everyday little things in the Casson family life. Saffy discovers that she was adopted and searches for bits of her past, as well as making (as Anne would call it) a bosom friend in neighbor Sarah. Indigo learns to stand up for himself against bullies, and he and Rose make a close friend in a transplanted American, Tom. Rose deals with loss and change — from getting glasses, to being basically an only child. Caddy falls in and out of love, and finally finds The One (with the help of Rose, of course). Eve and Bill go through upheavals and stress. And through it all, you are there loving and rooting for all of them (except maybe Bill, who really is a cad… until the end, when he turns out OK).

Honestly, though, it’s not the plots that make these books so wonderful. It’s the way that McKay writes about the Cassons themselves. McKay presents them in a delightfully daft British way — from their wacky house (named The Banana House) to the individual traits of each. Rose is disarmingly pragmatic and wonderfully funny — the way she “handles” Daddy on the phone or by letter is priceless — and Caddy’s ditziness is totally charming. Then there’s Indigo with his protectiveness and determination to overcome all his fears (by sitting in a windowsill), and Saffy with her contradictory fierceness (all the boys are afraid of her) and tenderness. McKay tackles difficult life issues with humor (though perhaps not grace, because the Cassons are anything but graceful. Crazy yes. Elegant, no), helping us realize that the Cassons are only human, which leads us to love them even more.

They’re quick reads, but they’re ones that you will go back to time and time again, like visiting old friends. Because, by the end of the series, that’s what they are: good friends, whom you know and love, and will miss when you’re not with them.

And really. Can you ask for more than that out of a series?

Rated: Mild — there are some indirect references to adult themes (adultery, out-of-wedlock birth, divorce), but they are treated with tact and humor. These are aimed at the 10-and-up crowd.

— Reviewed by Cathy Carmode Lim

Cathy Carmode Lim has been reviewing books for newspapers for about 15 years, two of which she was a book page editor. She founded Rated Reads in January 2008.

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Saffys Angel
  • The Casson Family series
  • by Hilary McKay
  • Rated: Mild
  • Genre: Young adult
  • Reviewer: