Author: Ailsa Wild
Publisher/Year: Hardie Grant Egmont/2019
Reviewer: Kim Peterson
Squishy Taylor and the Secret Envelope, the 11th book in the series by Ailsa Wild, is based on the adventures of 11-year-old Squishy Taylor. Neither I nor my nine-year-old companion had difficulty in following Squishy Taylor and the Secret Envelope as a standalone, despite not having read others in the series. Wild’s clear story line didn’t spend too much time going over old ground from previous stories but made enough subtle references for young readers to gather what was going on.
It quickly becomes apparent that each story revolves around Squishy and her evolving relationships with her divorced parents and bonus family. Yet rather than being just another tale of the challenges of changing family relationships, Squishy’s story also comes with a mystery which the young Squishy feels compelled to solve.
She’s excited by the return of her mother from overseas and the opportunity to have all her family living nearby. It all seems perfect, but nothing is ever what it seems – both in Squishy’s family life or events that occur around her. Will Squishy ever work out the identity of the woman she keeps bumping into, since picking her mother up from the airport? There are so many things for young Squishy to sort out in order for everyone to be happy. Such a combination of ideas is conveyed with humour and feeling which grabs the reader’s attention.
Wild constructs an engaging story in which Squishy tries to work through the complicated situation of which parent to choose without hurting their feelings – something highly relatable to many young reader. But Squishy shows that she and her bonus sisters are a force to be reckoned with and more than capable of handling things themselves (much to the amazement of the adults in their lives). Wild is to be commended for writing a story that gives her young characters the credit they deserve – exploring how children desire everything to be happy in their family, that adults don’t always have the answers but in the end if children have support, things will be ok (especially relevant in these times).
The easy to read style of this book along with the end of chapter ‘what next?’ style, captivated my nine-year-old audience, a difficult age to engage. A fun, mystery story with a message, Squishy Taylor and the Secret Envelope received the tick of approval as we search out the other books in this series.
Highly recommended for a young audience who like a sense of mystery with a feisty, caring, lead character. Squishy Taylor and the Secret Envelope is a novel young readers will be sure to enjoy.