An easy first reader this book has two qualities in abundance: humanity and humour. The author has drawn each character in a very real way without sentimentality or superficiality. Characters appear very ordinary especially the Queen who dances the Boogie, makes tea with tea bags and eats baked beans on toast.
Freya is seven years old and receives a letter telling her that she has been randomly chosen out of all the school children of Britain for that year to be the personal guest of the Queen. She will spend one day with the Queen at Buckingham Palace. Young girls will enjoy seeing what the Queen is really like and imagining how it could be them spending a day with her.
Their day spent together is an eye opener for Freya. All goes well and towards the end of the day the Queen hears about Freya’s little brother Christopher who is wheelchair bound. Despite her lofty position, the Queen looks with kind eyes at Christopher’s photo. Together they make a huge box of cupcakes for Christopher. There is more in store for him a couple of weeks later when the Queen makes a touching effort to give him a ride in her carriage – an event that proves to be perhaps one of the happiest moments of Christopher’s life.
There is not a great deal of character development in the story, but this is made up for by the encouraging and joyful message in the story. Freya’s voice is young and fresh, slightly clumsy in the way seven-year-old girls can be. The description of Christopher is not watered down, he makes “excited noises” and “throws his head from side to side like he’s nearly going beserk” when the Queen speaks to him. I loved it when Christopher comments with child-like pride that his wheelchair is his royal carriage.
A lovely read for beginning, fluent readers. However there is a bit of crude humour when the Queen falls over on her bottom and the ladies are “a bit frightened of pulling up her dress to see if she’s hurt.” The reader is subsequently informed they did exactly this, that her bottom was purple and that she wears “knickers with DOGS on them”. Similarly when the little girl finds a stack of undies in the Queen’s private quarters, and the Queen says, “Sorry…he says no one can do them quite like I can.” The author is making an attempt to create an ordinary impression of the Queen but this falls a bit flat.
Despite these two items, it is a story with a message of hope and kindness blending well with Tony Ross’s comic pen and ink illustrations.
A former children’s librarian, Jane Fagan is currently a full-time mother of two.