Emerald Star

Written by Jacqueline Wilson
Review by Elizabeth Hawksley

1891. Fourteen-year-old Hetty Feather has had a life of adventure but also tragedy. Left in an orphanage as a baby, she was fostered with the Cotton family. Later, she went into service – but was sacked. Then, she met her real mother and earned a living as ‘Emerald, the Amazing Pocket-sized Mermaid’ in ‘Mr Clarendon’s Seaside Curiosities’. Now her mother is dead, Hetty is searching for her unknown father. All she knows is that his name’s Bobbie, he has red hair like hers, he’s a sailor and he lives in the fishing village of Monksby.

She longs for a proper family of her own and dreams of living with her father and looking after him. Reality is sadly different. Bobbie may welcome her, but his wife and children certainly don’t, and she can’t bear gutting fish all day. Then comes a letter from her foster brother, Jem Cotton, telling her that his father has died. She hasn’t seen the Cottons since she was 5, but that doesn’t stop her impulsively rushing off to help. Surely with them she will find the loving family she craves.

Life has a number of lessons to teach Hetty: to separate dreams from reality, to understand that you can’t force people to accept you, and, above all, to learn the importance of being yourself. But who is she? I love how Hetty is constantly tested and always (after a struggle) comes up trumps in unexpected ways.

I really enjoyed this book. I hadn’t read the first two Hetty Feather books, but it wasn’t a problem. All you need to know is cunningly woven into the story. It’s emotionally truthful, moving, and wise. I’d have loved it as a child.  It should appeal to girls of 9 plus, especially those who are going through difficult times.