I really, really love Hilary McKay's Casson family books. When I saw the newly released Forever Rose (last of the Casson books, according to McKay, who wants to quit while she's ahead) I grabbed it and gobbled it down in two days. And then I went back and reread all the others, starting with Saffy's Angel. They were all just as good the second time around.
Truly, I can see why McKay feels that this is a good place to leave the Cassons. So much is resolved here: Caddy resurfaces after a year's absence with a mysterious bundle temporarily called Buttercup, David is thrown out of his home by his shrewish mother and takes refuge in the embrace of the Casson clan (Rose's embrace is a mite prickly, mind you--David still can't compare with Tom), and after mom Eve catches pneumonia painting in the shed, dad Bill finally decides to come home for good. It's clear that the older Casson kids are either grown up or well on their way--probably why Rose, the youngest, is the natural focal point of this last volume.
I've been thinking about some of the reasons I find reading about the Cassons so comforting. I think it is partly a fascination with the chaos that abounds in their home. The Casson house is hugely, gloriously untidy. Somehow, this mess seems connected to their creativity. No one fusses when Rose spends weeks drawing a mural of the family all over the kitchen walls; indeed, her Mom happily shoves aside furniture to make more room for it, and when Rose is done, her mother and siblings cover it with spray sealer out of respect for her endeavor. Likewise, Caddy is free to keep enormous guinea pig hutches for generations of pet guinea pigs all over the back yard. Meals may be haphazard, cakes may go up in smoke, and diamond and platinum engagement rings may get lost in the masses of stuff lying about, but guess who's home all the Casson kids' friends want to hang out in? You got it. It's kind of a kids' dream home. Unlike my house, where, inexplicably, the mess doesn't add a bit of warmth, coziness or relaxation, but only shows how chronically disorganized and pressed for time I am and makes everyone, including me, crabby.
The other quality that McKay conveys so well in these books is the particular support a loving family can give each member. The Casson home, without making a big fuss about it, is a loving, caring home. I love all the little ways the kids look out for each other, and include each other in their lives. I love how Eve sees so much good in all of her children, and, without pushing, lets them grow and become their best selves. I love the funny moments each book is so full of, and the more sober, serious moments too. And I love how McKay intertwines them so beautifully. I'm sure I'll re-read Forever Rose very, very soon.