Candyfloss, by Jacqueline Wilson; Square
Fish: New York, 2008; $6.99
What would you do if your mom moved to Australia? This is just one question Flora Barnes, also known as Floss, has to answer in Jacqueline Wilson’s excellent novel, Candyfloss.
Floss is a girl in her preteens living in England. She lives with her mother, her mother’s husband, Steve, and their toddler, Tiger, and spends the weekends staying with her dad in the house behind his rundown cafe. Floss is in the middle of a family split. She loves her mom and cherishes the girl-time that they spend together, yet at the same time she has more in common with her honest, easygoing father, who will do anything for her.
When Steve gets a new job in Sydney, Australia, Floss makes a tough decision. She defies her mother’s insistence that she must accompany them to Australia and declares that she will stay with her father. This is hard for Floss because she is choosing one parent over the other, but she decides that her father needs her the most. Her mother has Steve and Tiger to look after her, but Floss’s dad has no one. He lives for the short weekends that he and Floss spend together, and Floss realizes that he needs her more that her mother does.
I have a friend in a similar situation to Floss. Her family spent a year in California, and while they were there her mother fell in love with another man. When they got back, her parents divorced. This was only in third grade, but she is still scarred. She now switches between her parents’ houses every week. Both Floss and my friend have dealt with the sadness of divorce.
Not only does Floss have problems at home, but school is becoming a concern as well. Floss is best friends with the pretty and popular Rhiannon. Unfortunately, just because Rhiannon is popular doesn’t mean she is nice. When Susan Potts, a nice, nerdy girl, comes to Floss’s school, Rhiannon and her friends start to tease her. Floss wants to stand up for Susan, but it seems impossible with Rhiannon always teasing her. How can Floss possibly remain friends with both of them? Floss is torn between wanting to be popular and fit in, and wishing that Susan was her friend.
I am a nerd, no doubt about it. I expect other people who write for and read Stone Soup are. But most kids don’t like nerds. For some reason, we always find ourselves on the fringes, occasionally being included, but for the most part off in our own little world.
Another reason that I can really relate to Susan is the feeling of being the new kid. I spent half a year living in Cambridge, England, when I was in fourth grade. Overall, the kids welcomed me with open arms. Unfortunately, there are always some characters, like Rhiannon, who feel insecure enough that they need to pick on a new kid to fit in with their group. Sometimes I was called names, sometimes I was picked on, and lots of kids enjoyed making fun of my American accent. Eventually, like Susan, I learned that if people tease you the best thing to do is to hold your head high and rise above unkind bullies.
Over the course of the book Floss finds herself motherless, homeless, and friendless, but she also has her good times. She makes a friend, discovers a circus, finds a pet cat, and befriends her teacher. Candyfloss is an excellent book—as Floss would say, “Simply brilliant!”