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Shantala N. Palat

By Caroline Plaisted . Illustrations by  Cherry Whytock.
Macmillan, London, 2003 and 2005, pp. 206 and pp. 195, $9.99 each

By Ellen Potter . Illustrations by Nicola Slater
Macmillan, London, 2005, pp. 231, $8.99

VOLUME XXIX NUMBER 11 November 2005

Cringe! and its sequel Do I Look Like I Care? are about a “nearly a teenager” girl, Amaryllis who struggles to be normal in a strange world. No, her world is not Mars or Pluto. Her world is very much grounded in this dear planet—Earth. It is her family that causes her to “cringe”. They are an eccentric lot. Being the middle child in the family, she has to put up with an older brother, Geoffrey, who either grunts or sleeps in the cellar all day long. Her younger brother, Hugo, is a goody-goody boy, supposedly a budding naturalist, who spends the whole day in the garden, digging for worms and other creepy-crawlies. The embarrassment does not stop here. Her parents are even weirder. Her mother, Mary, is a counsellor who visits her clients in Geoffrey alias Ben’s bedroom. “She says she helps people to find themselves. Shame she hasn’t helped Ben find his way out of the cellar in daylight.” She is also a poet-lover and attends the “Circle of Poets” once a week. She “can only write things that rhyme—with words like ‘bunny rabbits’ and ‘clouds’—things that you just don’t want to hear”(Do I Look Like I Care? p 42). Worse, she wears odd clothes such as wearing purple tights with her mini skirts over it. Her dangling earrings are “ kind of wobbling in rhythm with her shoulders” whenever she is excited. She is not the cool, trendy and slim mother Amaryllis yearns for. To add to her woes, her father, Marcus, who prefers to be called by his name, is even stranger. He owns a shop “ Flowerdew and Sons and daughter”, a health food shop where “ none of the stuff he sells in it smells good or tastes remotely healthy to me” (Cringe! p.8) He keeps a parrot who swears at his customers whenever they visit his shop. Worse, he wears sandals without socks throughout the year and even goes for school meetings in them. In addition, he fancies himself as an artist, something that Amaryllis begs to differ on.   The only people who help Amaryllis maintain her sanity, are her paternal grandmother, Nono, and her best friend, Xanthe. Her grandmother is called that simply because “ she starts with almost very sentence with the words, “No, no”….Nono is the only other person I know who really seems to understand how ...

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