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Starring Tracy Beaker    by Jacqueline Wilson & Nick Sharratt order for
Starring Tracy Beaker
by Jacqueline Wilson
Order:  USA  Can
Doubleday, 2006 (2006)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Tracy Beaker is ten years old and lives in a children's home she calls 'the Dumping Ground'. She alternates between the reality of her life there and passionate dreams of a mother who truly wants her - but 'she's this famous film star and she's way too busy making movies in Hollywood to look after me.' Tracy's prickly and unpopular with her peers, and generally difficult with adults, but she has a strong spirit, and she dreams big. Nick Sharratt's cartoon-like black and white drawings emphasize the humor in this engaging series. (Note that North American readers might wonder about some of the British slang, as in use of the word rubbish, though Harry Potter has introduced it to many).

Tracy's nemesis in the children's home is Justine Littlewood, who keeps raining on her parade - especially when Tracy boasts about her mum. When Justine tactlessly introduces reality, the fur flies, after which there's a stint in the Quiet Room for young Tracy. But life looks up after she's chosen to play the lead role of Ebenezer Scrooge in the school Christmas play - Miss Simpkins wants someone 'who can act bad temper and meanness and lack of generosity, and yet one who can convincingly thaw and repent and behave wonderfully after all.' Tracy gets right into the part, and even practices on her Saturday visits with Cam, who wants to be her foster mum and is taking classes. She even helps her friend, Weedy Peter, who's terrified about playing Tiny Tim.

Tracy sets her heart on her real mum coming to see the play. She sends special Christmas gifts, and even makes a magic potion to assure her presence. But then she gets into trouble again, and is forbidden to act the part that's become so important to her. That's when Tracy discovers she has more allies than she would ever have suspected. She gets a second chance and works hard to deserve it - though she's still cheeky, that's second nature. In this episode, Tracy grows up just a little and has a wonderful Christmas after all. Kids will identify with her challenges, cheer for her successes, and appreciate her imagination and creativity. And at the back of this episode is the first chapter of the next one, The Dare Game.

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