Permanent Rose is the third of Hilary McKay's books about the Cassons, a quirky and wonderful English family. Although Saffy's Angel and Indigo's Star featured other children at center stage, Permanent Rose, the youngest, has always seemed the heart of the family and of these stories. Now Rose gets her own book, and what a delight it is.

The Casson children include Caddy, Saffy (technically a cousin), Indigo and Rose. The head of the family, Bill Casson, a successful London artist, is more and more absent, physically and emotionally. The rather dotty but doting mother, Eve, also an artist, spends a lot of her time in the garden shed, her favorite place in the world. She does not cook. ( We're starving to death, Saffron says at one point. Ring for pizza, says Eve.) Fans of these books will not be surprised to find that life is once again chaotic in the Casson household. Caddy, home for the summer from college, is engaged to darling Michael, her former driving instructor, and she manages to lose her diamond engagement ring. Saffy is on a quest to find her biological father. (Her biological mother was Eve's twin sister.) Indigo has survived a hard patch of bullying in his school the past year, in part thanks to an American boy named Tom, who's returned to the States. Now Indigo is tentatively beginning a new friendship with David, a bully trying to reform and eager to be part of the family.

It's the end of August, and unbearably hot. Permanent Rose (the actual name on her birth certificate) is unhappy. Rose had a special friendship with Tom and misses him awfully. She also misses her father, who has a new girlfriend in London. With all these confused changes, it's no surprise that Rose has taken up a new, secret pastime: shoplifting. But real surprises await Rose before summer's end, as she sets off on an unexpected journey. If you're looking for a wonderful summer read-aloud for the whole family, don't miss the amazing world and lovable characters Hilary McKay has created in Permanent Rose. But, if you're the one reading aloud to the kids, be forewarned: you won't be able to resist reading ahead. Just don't give anything away!

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