Lady Daisy by Dick King-Smith
One from my childhood that I had to read again!
When Ned helps his Gran turn out the attic, he finds a non-descript shoebox hiding in a corner. Imagine his suprise then when he opens the box and finds a gorgeous Victorian doll inside! How did she get into the attic though? Why was she hidden away? And why can she talk?
This is a story that revolves around time, which isn’t really surprising considering that Lady Daisy herself is a talking memory box. Dating from the late 1800’s, she has no memory of the intervening years between when she was laid down in her box (her eyes closing so she was officailly ‘asleep’) and the year this book was written. Refreshingly though, this is not a melancholy book. Lady Daisy doesn’t mourn the good old days or anything like that, more she seems to marvel at how things have changed, praising new inventions like the television. I did like her rather outraged reply though to Ned when he asks if she had telephone that of course the house had a telephone, they were civilised after all! Prim characters are so much fun to read.
There’s a sense of time repeating itself too, that time passes by and that despite technological differences, things don’t really change too much. After all, Ned does eventually stop hearing Lady Daisy, just as she knew he would as he grew up, and then 20 years later he passes Lady Daisy on to his own little girl.
I also loved the book’s emphasis that it was just fine for Ned to want to hang about with a doll. Even his all-man dad came round to the idea that Yes, it’s fine for a lad to want a doll as well as a football. Considering how hot a topic gender can be when it comes to children’s toys and books, it’s nice to see that pointed out in a book for fairly young readers rather than just in parenting magazines, and pointed out in a non-obtrusive way too.
The real bonus to this charming story of one boy and his doll though is that it’s a great add-on to any lessons a school may do on the Victorian era. At one point Ned and his class are doing just that, and Ned brings Lady Daisy in as part of the class’ collection of Victorian objects, which I’m pretty sure I remember doing too at school. I wonder if Lady Daisy could be used to spark off ideas for Victorian projects, maybe on Victorian toys, or on timelines, or even just comparing modern day with the Victorian period.
The book itself I’ve put down as 5-8 because it has a fairly simple plot; it’s not too complicated and it’s very easy to follow. However, the language involved is quite complex so I’d say it’s probably best for older 5-8 readers, if only because the trickier words they’d probably get from context whereas younger readers might not.
The one thing I would say about this book is that because it was written twenty years ago, some of the pop culture it refers to probably won’t mean much to your average 5-8 year old today. After all, the name Vinnie Jones doesn’t mean much to me, let alone a 7 year old, and I’m fairly sure not many current young readers would know who Garfield the Cat is. But still, these references are just a very small part of the book and don’t really detract from it at all.