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A Love Letter To Jacqueline Wilson, Who Made Bookworms Out Of Young Girls Everywhere

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A Love Letter To Jacqueline Wilson, Who Made Bookworms Out Of Young Girls Everywhere

Come 5pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, I know what I'll be doing this week - I'm going to be cracking open a nice, cold bottle of rosé and settling down to watch CBBC.

No, this is not my usual weekend routine (okay, maybe the wine part is), but I know I won't be the only 20-something swapping Netflix for kids TV. Why? Because Tracy Beaker is back - and this time, she's a mother.

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Having bog off-ed into our lives in 1991, Jacqueline Wilson's story about a feisty foster child who longs for her 'Hollywood actress' mother to whisk her away from the children's home was an instant classic. With her sparky, witty dialogue and her constant feuding with arch-nemesis Justine Littlewood, Tracy seemingly leapt off the page and became the perfect entrée to Jacqueline's impressive oeuvre of work.

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Having sold a staggering 40 million copies, most millennials in the UK will have read, or at the very least be aware of, Jacqueline Wilson's books. Be it Beaker herself, or troublesome twins Ruby and Garnett in Double Act, or wannabe comedian Elsa in The Bed and Breakfast Star, the stories appealed to a great number of us through their strong and relatable voice - a distinctly child's perspective of the world around them, but without ever patronising the reader.

Tracy Beaker was our entry point to lots of Jacqueline's work (Credit: BBC)
Tracy Beaker was our entry point to lots of Jacqueline's work (Credit: BBC)

The situations the characters were placed in may have been alien to those who were lucky and privileged enough to have a comfortable home life, but the simple way they were described allowed us to empathise and imagine the experience for ourselves. We too packed up all our belongings and ran away in the dead of night like Jayni and her mum in Lola Rose, moved to a dank, troubled neighbourhood with our three sisters in Diamond Girls, watched our parents go to war in The Suitcase Kid. The shared experience between the reader and the main character saw us develop a genuine fondness for them, each book distinct as every lead had their own personality and unique sense of humour as if they were real people that we knew.

Their relative easiness to read saw me and many other girls my age flick through Jacqueline's books quickly - when I came home I'd often forgo watching CITV or the Disney Channel and nestle up on the sofa, wrapped up in a blanket and reading The Dare Game. As someone who didn't particularly have an easy time at school, it was a welcoming slice of escapism for me to read about how Tracy was dared to hang her knickers from a top of a fir tree and just forget all about the day, even just for a few hours.

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Lola Rose and Vicky Angel both have some upsetting moments (Credit: Penguin Random House)
Lola Rose and Vicky Angel both have some upsetting moments (Credit: Penguin Random House)

Of course, not all of Jacqueline Wilson's books were necessarily suitable for kids in primary school, with some of her stories being downright harrowing. I remember how my jaw dropped when Jayni's dad punched her so hard she was knocked off her feet in Lola Rose, the scandal of a 14-year-old starting an illicit affair with her art teacher in Love Lessons, how Dolphin's mother ended up being hospitalised as she battled bipolar disorder in The Illustrated Mum. It was Vicky Angel which has probably stayed with me the most, as I desperately reread the final chapter to understand the nuances of Jade's grief as she finally stopped letting herself be haunted by the ghost of her best friend.

While some aspects of the books were perhaps a struggle for some younger children to read, Jacqueline never shied away from tackling away these bigger issues that have all touched us in some shape or form. And although she didn't explicitly give some of her best-loved characters clear-cut happy endings, a sense of optimism and hope was always palpable, with the reader always wishing each character well.

Jacqueline Wilson's novels encouraged many girls to get reading (Credit: PA Images)
Jacqueline Wilson's novels encouraged many girls to get reading (Credit: PA Images)
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As I grew older, I could no longer nourish my hunger for reading on a diet of Jacqueline Wilson, and I moved onto more 'grown-up' paperbacks - reaching for Meg Cabot and Louise Rennison as opposed to Jacqueline's latest. But even now, whenever I browse the bookshelves at Waterstones or idly scroll through Amazon, a small part of me leaps with excitement to see Jacqueline Wilson has yet another new book out, even though I know I will never read it.

Tracy Beaker may be all grown up with a child of her own now, but thanks to Jacqueline Wilson's rich storytelling introducing us to a whole new world of reading, she will always be a mouthy little kid in our heads - and our hearts.

Featured Image Credit: PA/Doubleday/Nick Sharratt

Topics: Books, Entertainment News, TV News, TV & Film, TV Entertainment, tracy beaker

Kimberley Bond
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