Cousins, a boy with a weird haircut who doesn’t “fit in”, and families helping each other make for interesting subjects in this upcoming book by Simon French. The story drew me in and kept me glued to the pages throughout.

How would you react if your cousin came to live with you? If you had to share a bedroom with him? Kieran has never liked his cousin Bon. But when Bon’s mother cannot cope, Bon is welcomed into Kieran’s family home – and Kieran has to share his bedroom with him! Readers will want to know how Kieran’s parents deal with the boys’ antagonistic relationship. The tension is upped a notch when Kieran’s school friends start to tease and bully Bon. What will Kieran do when his mates make a plan to pin Bon down, put a skirt around him and belittle him?

Reading this story may encourage a child witnessing a bullying situation to take a stand. In Kieran’s case, he cannot ignore the situation. Kieran eventually feels sympathy for Bon’s mother who has had to ask her sister to take Bon in for a while. Kieran appreciates her simply because she is a mother. I thought a little bit more information about the background of Bon’s one friend, Julia, and her troubled mother could have explained Julia’s behaviour. In all other ways she is shown to be outstanding in virtue, to help the boy who is having trouble fitting in, to stand up for him. With her own troubled mother, however, she is depicted as unforgiving. This is presented as something normal that readers should accept almost as a given.

Despite this, My Cousin’s Keeper was a very enjoyable read with several different themes. Probably the strongest is that of bullying. The story could contribute to an understanding about bullying in schools, and why kids often won’t defend victims.

A former children’s librarian, Jane Fagan is currently a full-time mother of two.