Saffy's Angel back in 2002. Well I think it was 2002 as that's the year it says inside my old copy. But I definitely read it as an actual tween so I can tell you from the target audience's perspective, and from a grown up's perspective, these books are PERFECT.
I think I came across Saffy's Angel because my dad had heard something about it on the radio - good old bit of PR work in action there. Anyway when I came to reading it, I fell in love with family and how kooky and unusual the characters were. Not only was it sweet and funny but it was so emotional and I always looked back on it fondly as a book of magic and wonder. The Casson family are a complete treat - lots of eccentric children with an even more eccentric artist mother and a progressively more and more absent artist father. Each child has been named after a swatch on a paint chart hung up in the kitchen - Permanent Rose, Saffron, Indigo and Cadmium. Each child has such a rich story to tell, full of the discoveries of growing up, particularly with the extra independence they gain from having such a charmingly dotty mother - who still loves them dearly, but has difficulty keeping a track of them all the time! You can read all about them in their own titles in the series.
Caddy's World is actually a prequel title, coming before the five other titles which explored the family in the years after Saffy's Angel was released. Caddy is the oldest sibling and mostly seen as a teenager or university student in the other books so it's really lovely to see her as a 12 year old. If you know the other books you'll see a few explanations for Caddy's quirky ways in this snapshot of her childhood self. I adore her group of friends in all their extreme differences from each other - the kind of friendship group you can only have at that age I think. Poignantly, Caddy is forever wishing that things would never change but of course nothing ever really stays the same.
I don't want to give too much of the story away as it's such a wonderful read - lots of people have been asking me about books to interest keen reading girls who don't want to get into teenage talk about boys and kissing - this is perfect. Things do get tough in the Casson family sometimes, but for an 8-12 year old I'd say this is the best way to learn about those tough times - within the framework of a gorgeously characterful story, full of plenty of humour, hope and every day magic.
Caddy's World by Hilary McKay is out now in hardback and is long listed for the 2012 Carnegie Medal.