OK, so I know that this is a children’s book. But come on. It is Jacqueline Wilson and Nick Sharratt. These were my favourite author and illustrator growing up. Then, when I spotted that a new book was out that was about identical triplets and butterflies, I had to download it.
For those of you who are unaware, I myself am the youngest of a set of identical triplets and also have butterflies on about 50% of everything I own! I wanted to feel like a little girl again and reading this seemed like the perfect way to do so…
Tina is a triplet, but she’s always been the odd one out. Her sisters Phil and Maddie are bigger and stronger and better at just about everything. Luckily, they look after teeny-tiny Tina wherever they go – but when the girls start in scary, super-strict Miss Lovejoy’s class, they’re split up, and Tina has to fend for herself for the first time.
Tina is horrified when she’s paired up with angry bully Selma, who nobody wants to be friends with. But when Miss Lovejoy asks them to help her create a butterfly garden in the school playground, Tina discovers she doesn’t always need her sisters – and that there’s a lot more to Selma than first meets the eye.
Jacqueline Wilson gets the feelings of what it’s like to be a triplet spot on in this book (I wonder what kind of research she did for the book?) Being a triplet often means that your business is their business, regardless of what happens. They will be the people you will tell everything in the world to:
Nobody knew she was there. Well, Phil and Maddie did, but they’re my sisters. Nobody else knew.
It is a given that Tina’s triplet sisters, who are bigger and protective of her, know her secrets and that is the way it is in real life, especially when you are so young. The bond is incredibly strong for me and my sisters the way it is for Tina and hers and it really allowed me to sympathise with Tina.
I rather wanted them to come. I always felt odd without them, as if two big chunks of me were missing.
Throughout the book as well there are clever little subtle hints as to how different family members – especially Phil and Maddie, who watch their triplet sister get mollycoddled by their parents – react and deal daily with the fact that Tina needs so much more attention and care than the others. These little nuances are incredibly clever.
What is also very clever is that Jacqueline Wilson makes it very clear that Phil and Maddie have very different personalities, likes, dislikes and also strengths and weaknesses. For instance, Maddie is the complete opposite of Tina in that she is confident in standing up for people – and Phil is different from her in that she is much more sensible and able to judge that young girls shouldn’t be getting into physical fights.
My favourite part of the book is when the girls cuddle up in bed together after a falling out:
“We’re Phil and Tina and me.”
“We’re Maddie and Tina and me,” said Phil.
“We’re Phil and Maddie and me,” I said, and I felt so very glad that I had my two sisters.
For those of you buying books for your kiddies out there, your little girl or boy would love this book. All kids have felt a little bit insecure in some way, but all kids also love to feel a sense of achievement. This book shows children how important it is to make friends and to keep trying at something, even if it is difficult. Tina finds herself having to rely on herself and not on her bigger sisters to do everything for her: the butterfly metaphor works perfectly because by the end of the novel, she feels like she has gone through a rite of passage in order to shine at the end of her journey. That, and she makes a butterfly garden. And what kid wouldn’t love that?