Tuesday 25 September 2012

269. Miss Understood by James Roy

Miss Understood by James Roy
Published September 2012 Random House (Woolshed Press)

From the publisher:
Lizzie doesn't mean to do the wrong thing . . . she's just misunderstood. When ten-year-old Lizzie accidentally sets fire to a cardboard effigy of her school principal, she's asked to leave Our Lady of the Sacred Wimple College. It wasn't her fault, honest! But no one will listen to the truth, so from now on Lizzie will be home-schooled by her mother in her family's dining room. No friends, no playground, and nothing but homework. Lizzie has to prove that she's matured enough to be allowed back into Sacred Wimple. She tries. She volunteers at a charity shop. She writes an essay about an inspirational person. She attempts to cheer up her dad, who's being sued after writing a mean restaurant review. And when she finds a man living in the empty display home next door, she vows to help him . . .

At the beginning of the book Lizzie is in trouble.  She is in the principle’s office, because of the bad thing that she did.  The bad thing involved stamping out a burning effigy of the principle.  Yes that sounds bad…but Lizzie is simply misunderstood, because it wasn’t as bad as it seemed.  Unfortunately for Lizzie, there have been a number of misunderstandings, like the time she ‘rescued’ the Preps from drowning at a swimming carnival or the time she was locked in the control room at the local power station.  This time, the good people at Our Lady of the Sacred Wimple College have no choice but to expel Lizzie.  Leaving your school and your friends is bad enough, but Lizzie isn’t going to another school, her mother is going to home school her!

Lizzie has to admit (although not openly) that her Mum is actually a pretty good teacher, and some of the things she had trouble with at school, like long division, have suddenly become clear to her.  There’s also the added bonus of wearing casual clothes every day and only having to go as far as your dining room to get to school.. So while there are good points, Lizzie really wants to get back to school, just so that she can be with her friends again.  Her parents think that doing some work in the community may sway the principle into letting Lizzie return to the Sacred Wimple.  It’s then that Lizzie starts volunteering at the Helping Hands Charity shop, where her neighbour Miss Huntley also volunteers, and while all of this hard work and good deed doing is going on, another mystery unfolds, as to who is living in the display home next to Lizzie’s house? 

Lizzie is one of those characters that I can’t help but love.  They may get into all sorts of trouble, but none of is malicious, and there usually is a good reason.  The book has a lot going on. It looks at the everyday realities of life that families can be faced with,  in the case of the Adams family, money troubles and depression, and in the case of Derek (display home man), how bad these troubles can become. But while the serious side is there, there are also some laugh out loud moments.  One of my favourite moments is when Lizzie and Miss Huntley are having a confusing conversation about Yoda (from Star Wars) or Yogo as Miss Huntley calls him, then there’s a reference to “A dead-eye you will be” (Jedi), but my favourite is the mention of the light-saver.  It tickles me, because I called it a light-saver for years myself! (quote taken from page 61)

‘Ah, so now it’s my turn to correct you, young lady,’ she said.  The she put on a funny little voice that wasn’t much like Yoda’s at all. ‘Correct you, I will!  You see, that thing he swings around like some kind of maniac is a lightsabre, as in a kind of sword.’
I shook my head.  ‘No, I’m sure it’s saver.’
‘Well, maybe you’re right,’ she said, which was good of her to admit, because I knew I was.

As much as I enjoyed this book, after I finished it, there were a few things that niggled at me, things that didn't really fit.  Firstly, throughout the story  there seems to be something going on with Miss Huntley, odd behaviour, not being where she is supposed to be when she said she was, and this is never explained.  Secondly, I felt a bit uncomfortable about a man, (Derek, who is staying in the display home), asking a 10 year old girl to keep a secret for him, and Lizzie sneaking about helping him.

Who will like this book: Girls age 10+
Read it if you like: Star by Catherine Bateson

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