Book Review: The Illustrated Mum by Jacqueline Wilson

Title: The Illustrated Mum

Author: Jacqueline Wilson

Genre: Middle Grade Realistic Fiction

Number of Pages: 288

Rating: B+

Recommended?: Yes



      Dolphin is a bright, resourceful ten-year-old girl who lives with her sister Star and their mom Marigold, who suffers from bipolar disorder (I couldn’t help thinking that a generous helping of mental health issues is the only thing that can account for those names- geez.) Marigold is impulsive, childlike, and covered from head to toe in tattoos. Dolphin thinks she’s the best mom in the world, even when she lets her down and embarrasses her.



     Star is getting older and distancing herself from Marigold, seeing her as the irresponsible powder keg she is. Marigold is also unmedicated and an alcoholic, and it’s often like Dolphin and Star are her parents instead of the other way around. When Star’s dad comes into her life, she sees a way out and when she leaves Marigold’s behavior gets even worse, forcing Dolphin to seek help from other adults.



    This is my first book by Jacqueline Wilson- holy crap, she’s written a lot of books! I had been meaning to read it for a long time because of the mental health themes. I thoroughly enjoyed Dolphin’s unique personality and the author’s refusal to provide easy answers while still applying a gentle touch.



     Dolphin’s friend Oliver was also awesome and I loved their relationship. What could have been a standard problem novel about a broken family managed to offer some surprises and a fresh perspective on the issues it portrayed. I had trouble sympathizing with Marigold (even though as Dolphin said, the behavior that arose from her mental problems weren’t her fault- the way she acted with her daughters just made me cringe) but I liked both Star and Dolphin and their love-hate sibling relationship felt so real.



     They were both flawed characters who wanted to best for their family but Star’s desire to escape was fully understandable. I thought this book did a particularly great job showing how two people can see someone totally differently and the part age and maturity plays in the way we see our parents. 




6 thoughts on “Book Review: The Illustrated Mum by Jacqueline Wilson

      1. My favourite as a kid was probably The Bed and Breakfast Star. But you might prefer her YA books, like the Girls series (Girls in Love, Girls Under Pressure, etc). And since you enjoyed the love-hate sister relationship in The Illustrated Mum, I must recommend Double Act!

        Liked by 1 person

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