This is a medium-length novel about the exploits of two eleven-year-old girls in possession of a packet of magic seeds which prove disastrous for their village community.
Bloom is Nicola Skinner’s debut children’s book and she has clearly written it with the aim of entertaining her likely (girl) readership. In short, she has written it for laughs. It has a zany plot, an array of stereotypical characters (a snooty Head of Year girl and her sycophantic sidekick, a repressive headmaster, a sweet but absent-minded botany teacher, a malevolent spirit from the past), and an ending where everything is suddenly neatly tied up thanks to the timely and not so surprising intervention of the supernatural. What gave me a bit of a jolt, though, was the irony of the fact that the plot hinges on a mysterious and crazy infection which originates from the seeds and spreads like wildfire through the village. Is Nicola Skinner able to see into the future? She even mentions ‘lockdown’ at one point. But, and here is the difference, although ‘Scalp Sprout’ is there to stay in her story, it does, of course, bring about good transformations in the community, and all is well in the future. But you do wonder quite how it will go down in these current circumstances.
She seems to have used this contagion story to give out a rather unconvincing message about defying authority and protecting the environment, but mostly she has written it to amuse her readers. Maybe it will succeed in doing that, and so it would be fine in a Key Stage 2 classroom library. However, I think it belongs to the sugar-rush school of writing for children, okay while it lasts but very unlikely to have a long- term impact.
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