Originally published in Australia in 2016, Wild’s first story in the Squishy Taylor series makes its way to the United States.
Sita “Squishy” Taylor lives in a small apartment with a large family: her dad, stepmom, twin stepsisters Vee and Jessie, and the baby. This is a new arrangement, since her mom has moved overseas. One day, Squishy comes across a little kid hiding in the garage who goes by the name John Smith. Gullible Squishy believes John Smith’s tale: that he stole a motorbike and that the police are after him. Squishy is excited about having a secret, but John is soon discovered by Vee. In working together, Vee and Squishy quickly become friends, and Squishy comes to think of her stepfamily as a “bonus family” in truth. While the story itself is well-written and the fast-paced narrative keeps readers engrossed, the main issue in the story—Squishy’s loneliness and eventual acceptance with regard to her stepfamily—is sidelined. Also, although Squishy is the only brown character in the book (her mother is Indian), her biracial identity has little to do with the story. In fact, all the characters in the book read white regardless of how they have been depicted in Wood’s black-and-white illustrations, which appear every 10 pages or so. The paperback edition of the book includes several questions intended for classroom discussions.
Ultimately, Squishy’s numerous shenanigans make the book an enjoyable, if simple, outing for chapter-book readers. (Fiction. 7-10)