"ELSA, STAR OF THE SHELTER!" by Jacqueline Wilson


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Elsa, narrator and aspiring comedienne, is growing up below the poverty line in England. Along with her little half-sister and half-brother, mother, and abusive stepfather, she moves into a shelter, which she describes with good-humored spunkiness. When she discovers a fire and runs through the shelter sounding the alarm, she becomes a hero; the family subsequently moves to a hotel where they have a suite of rooms. Other than the fire, there isn't much action, and Elsa's terrible jokes will have readers groaning almost as much as the characters in the book. In her first children's book, Wilson never makes the narrative outright funny, but Elsa's upbeat attitude carries the story along in the absence of any real plot. The main flaws may be that homelessness, through Elsa's eyes, begins to look tolerably fun and that her stepfather's physical abuse of her is never resolved. Sharratt's black-and-white drawings--stick figures, silly asides, etc.--give this the feel of a child's journal but also make it difficult to take Eisa's very real travails seriously.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1996
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Whitman