In this, her 40th novel for children, Joan Lingard finds a fresh approach to the problem of abandoned children. Her children’s novels have covered many topics that concern and frighten children and this is no exception. Despite her 70 years, she is as tuned is and perceptive to the world of children as ever.
Holly lives in Glasgow with her immature mother, Sharon, and is going to stay with her father in Edinburgh for two weeks holiday. What her mother hasn’t told her, is that she is going on holiday herself, while Holly is away. Despite her protests at being put on the train alone, Holly is entrusted to the nearest nice looking lady and that’s it.
Her worst fears are realised when her father isn’t there to meet her. He has emailed Holly’s mother to say that he is needed at work (on an oil rig somewhere, possibly in the Middle East) and will not be home for another two weeks â€“ but Sharon hasn’t checked her emails.
Fortunately for Holly, the nice looking lady and her husband take her under their wing and all ends well.
The story is told from Holly’s perspective, aided by her fictional friend Sylvie and between the two of them we cover all the fears and hopes, spoken and unspoken, of this terrifying scenario. Occasionally Sylvie seems a bit more savvy than Holly â€“ what she is saying and doing can really only be created by Holly â€“ but, as Joan Lingard points out, Holly has spent so much of her time ‘home alone’ reading that she has a lot of ideas beyond her own experiences. Sylvie,Â her fictional heroine, is the friend in whom she can trust and confide. She has adventures but Holly knows she will always come out all right.
As often happens, authors are inspired by something that happens to them and while Joan has never been in quite this situation, “Something similar did happen to me once,” she says. “Then, as an author, you push it further by saying, what if?”
Being careful to be politically correct, Holly is taken in by two people who would have been police checked and Joan is careful to have Nina and Colin give references to Holly’s father before getting permission from him to take her in. So, none of the characters is beyond redemption, even Holly’s mum, who Joan describes as ‘feckless rather than evil’. Without being judgemental or stereotypical, this is a story which brings out the best in its characters, given time.