girls like to find that the possibility of a romantic attachment exists’. I understood the point. The narrative also demanded that Katy should have someone with whom she could speak candidly about her anger and her aspirations. Dexter fits the bill. As a reader I found myself intrigued by the question whether Katy and Dexter could establish a viable relationship, though as a critic I found Dexter too perfect and too contrived to command complete credibility.

What messages would Jacqueline want young readers and adults to take from her retelling and why?

Above all Jacqueline wanted readers of all ages to understand that despite her disability Katy has feelings and needs just like any other young person of her age. The central core of her personality is unchanged. Jacqueline was at school with a girl named Lindsay who had polio. She was often absent from school. She was protected – perhaps over-protected – by a loving family. Had Jackie possibly ostracised Lindsay, I asked? Jackie said she hadn’t, she’d tried to befriend her, but she’d noted how the illness had robbed Lindsay of her self-confidence.

Jacqueline depicts disability in other novels including Queenie, Sleepovers, The Butterfly Club and The Worry Website. In Hetty Feather, the eponymous protagonist has a foster brother named Saul. He has a ‘withered leg’ and dies of influenza in the Foundling Hospital. What message do characters like Saul deliver for modern readers?

In Victorian London influenza epidemics took place and it was probably true that physical disabilities made children more vulnerable to the virus. For most of the book Hetty does not like Saul. He is inclined to be a bully. But when he dies she regrets that she did not make more effort to bring out the best in him.

After Katy what’s next for Jacqueline’s fans?

Jacqueline’s new book Rent a Bridesmaid is just out. Two further episodes in the story of Hetty Feather are to be published in October, adding to the five episodes already in print. Whatever the subject, the books are sure to be thoughtful, considered, and full of convincing, rounded characters, able-bodied and disabled alike.

Books by Jacqueline Wilson: Katy, Puffin, 978-0-1413-5398-2, £6.99 Queenie, Yearling, 978-0-4408-6988-7, £6.99 pbk Sleepovers, Young Corgi, 978-0-5525-5783-2, £5.99 pbk The Butterfly Club, Corgi, 978-0-5525-6993-4, £6.99 pbk The Worry Website, Yearling, 978-0-4408-6826-2, £5.99 pbk Hetty Feather, Yearling 978-0-4408-7124-8, £6.99 Rent a Bridesmaid, Doubleday, 978-0-8575-3272-5, £12.99 hbk

What Katy Did, Susan Coolidge, Scholastic Press, 978-1-4071-6246-1, £4.99pbk

Dr. Rebecca Butler writes and lectures on children’s literature. Books for Keeps No.218 May 2016 15

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