What’s it all about?:
Let it be flour babies. Let chaos reign. When the annual school science fair comes round, Mr Cartwright’s class don’t get to work on the Soap Factory, the Maggot Farm or the Exploding Custard Tins. To their intense disgust they get the Flour Babies – sweet little six-pound bags of flour that must be cared for at all times.
What did I think?:
I’m not very familiar with Anne Fine’s work although I know that she has held the post of Children’s Laureate here in the UK, which is quite an honour. I learned from Chrissi Reads that this was one of her favourite books when she was a child so I was excited to add it to our Kid-Lit list for this year. Flour Babies is set in a boys school and tells the story of class 4C which is composed of children that are not particularly academic and that are perhaps not doing so well at school than their peers. As a result, when it comes round to the annual science fair, some of the more “interesting” topics like making your own soap or exploding custard tins are allocated to the upper grades. 4C and their teacher Mr Cartwright (who has the patience of a saint) are left with the safer topics of: textiles, nutrition, domestic economy, child development or consumer studies or as Mr Cartwright helpfully explains to the class: “sewing, food, housekeeping, babies and so forth or thrift.”
None of these topics look particularly exciting to the class but when our main character Simon Martin mishears a conversation in the teacher’s staff room he coaxes the other children to agree to the topic of child development. The task for the class in this topic is flour babies, which attempts to teach the children about responsibility and parenthood. Specifically (because there are rules!) each child is given a bag of flour which they should take home with them and treat as if it were a child. It should not be left alone at any point, kept clean and dry, weighed on a weekly basis to check for signs of neglect and each child should keep a daily diary noting their thoughts and experiences with the project. Many of the children become exasperated by the flour babies while others end up making money out of the process by forming a flour babies creche! Simon on the other hand seems to undergo a radical transformation during the experiment, caring for his flour baby impeccably and talking to it constantly. It appears that with the advent of the flour babies comes an in-depth consideration of his own life situation and his absent father who left when he was six weeks old.
I found this novel to be a really sweet and humorous little read, even if some of the language and slang felt a little dated. I would have loved to have had a teacher like Mr Cartwright who put up with a lot from some of the more difficult teenagers in his class but handled each situation calmly and fairly. It was also nice to see his sensitive side when he realises that Simon is working through some difficult issues and deciding to monitor him carefully. I think it also gave out a great message to young adults reading the novel about the responsibilities of having a child and the huge, life-altering changes that it would bring. As a result, I think it’s a great book to teach or read in the classroom, enjoyable and funny with a strong message that at no time feels “preachy.”
For Chrissi’s fab review please check out her blog HERE.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):