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Saffy's angel
Publication Information:
New York : Margaret K. McElderry Books, c2001
Physical Description:
152 p.
Reading Level:
630 L Lexile
Geographic Term:
After learning that she was adopted, thirteen-year-old Saffron's relationship with her eccentric, artistic family changes, until they help her go back to Italy where she was born to find a special memento of her past.


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Paperback book PB J FICTION MCK 1 1

On Order



Those of you who have read Hilary McKay's earlier books, among which are The Exiles, Dog Friday, and Dolphin Luck, will happily welcome her new story, Saffy's Angel. Whether you have read her work or not, you have a special treat in store in Saffy's Angel.
You'll meet the four Casson children, whose mother, Eve, a fine-arts painter, has given them the names of paint colors. Cadmium, called Caddy, is the eldest; then comes Saffron, known as Saffy; Indigo, the only boy; and Rose, the youngest. When Saffy discovers quite by accident that she has been adopted, she is deeply upset, though the others assure her it makes no difference at all. Saffy is the daughter of Eve's twin sister, who lived in Siena, Italy, and died in a car crash. Grandad brought Saffy, as a very small child, back from Siena.
At Grandad's death, he leaves something to each of the children. To Saffy, it is "her angel," although no one knows its identity. How Saffy discovers what her angel is, with the help of an energetic new friend, lies at the heart of this enchanting story. Unforgettable characters come alive in often deeply humorous and always absorbing events to make a book to be treasured for a long, long time.

Reviews 5

Horn Book Review

(Intermediate, Middle School) Sometimes stories by British children's authors can feel, well, loose compared to ours-voice, plotting, treatment of characters so offhand that it seems no one was paying attention. I mean, over here we're careful about that kind of thing. Mostly, anyway. But Saffy's Angel felt so casual to me at first that when I came across an early description of the mother in the story, ""sweet and useless and friendly,"" it seemed a fitting description for the story itself. But it's not. The mistake was easy to make. Here you are, you see, with a small-town family where the father, a sexist pig (excuse me, but that's what he is), doesn't come home except on weekends because he's a painter and has to have peace and quiet, so his studio's in London. The mother is a painter, too, and spends all her time in her studio, but hers is a shed in the backyard. The four children, all named for paint colors, are left to themselves for just about everything. The house is a mess. No central heating, meals uncertain, insects wandering in at will, rain under the doors and down the chimney, guinea pigs outside, hamsters in. No one seems to mind. They all have their neuroses, but they're smart and attractive, everyone loves everyone, and all are extremely loose.And then Saffy-real name Saffron-discovers that she's actually the child of her mother's twin sister who was killed in a car accident when Saffy was three. All this in far-off Italy. Then Grandfather, who knew all about it, dies, and his will leaves everyone things that are falling apart, except that for Saffy there's supposed to be an angel. What kind of angel, and where is it? No one knows. But Saffy needs to know so she'll understand who she really is.Unlikely event follows unlikely event in search of the conclusion, and yet, somehow, Hilary McKay made me care very much about the whole thing-the people, the place, the outcome. She made me want to read it all in one sitting. I'm not sure how she did that. But it's good when the magic isn't obvious, and there's magic in Saffy's Angel, all right, drifting in under the doors and down the chimney. I'll tell this much about the ending: Mother turns out to be a better painter than Father, and more suc-cessful, too. Goody. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.

School Library Journal Review

Gr 3-6-Saffron (Saffy) Casson isolates herself from her compellingly eccentric English family after learning she is actually an adopted cousin whose mother died when she was very young. Her birth mother, who was her adoptive mother's twin sister, lived in Italy and died in a car crash. When her grandfather dies, he leaves the 13-year-old a stone angel. Believing that the stone angel is in Italy, and needing to find it in order to bolster her sense of belonging and improve her sense of self-worth, Saffy stows away on her best friend's family trip. While she does not find the angel there, Saffy discovers many answers to her questions and learns to better appreciate and love her unusual family. Meanwhile, her siblings undertake a humorously perilous trip to Wales to find the stone angel. While the story by Hilary McKay (S&S, 2002) is whimsical and amusing, serious undertones are brilliantly conveyed. Character development is superb and insightful. British actress Julia Sawalha wisely chooses not to attempt a distinct voice for each of the many characters, opting instead to allow her charmingly subtle vocal intonations to enhance the adept writing. This allows listeners to focus on description and mood, somehow making the story even funnier. Sawalha reads with great expression and has a particularly effective ability to adapt her pacing to suit events in the novel. This splendid book is superbly narrated, and is sure to entertain listeners.-B. Allison Gray, South Country Library, Bellport, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publisher's Weekly Review

At the start of this story, a girl learns that she is actually the Italian-born daughter of her supposed mother's twin sister, who died in a car crash when she was three. When her grandfather also dies and leaves her the statue of an angel, her search for it leads to more than one discovery. In a boxed review, PW called this "a memorable portrait of a vastly human family." Ages 8-12. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Booklist Review

Gr. 4^-7. McKay, author of The Exiles (1992) and Dolphin Luck (1999), among others, introduces yet another eccentric, irresistible family. The Casson family lives outside London in a ramshackle house that's packed with objects that are layered "like geological ages." Bill and Eve Casson, both artists, have named their children after colors (Cadmium, Indigo, and Rose), which is how Saffron realizes that she's adopted: her name's not on the color wheel. The Casson children are actually Saffy's cousins, whom she joined following her mother's early death. A grandfather's will triggers Saffy's one memory of her early childhood in Siena, Italy (a garden with a stone angel), and with the help of Sarah, a new friend, Sarah's family, and her own madcap siblings, Saffy is finally reunited with her beloved statue. Like the Casson household itself, the plot is a chaotic whirl that careens off in several directions simultaneously. But McKay always skillfully draws each clearly defined character back into the story with witty, well-edited details; rapid dialogue; and fine pacing. And in the midst of all the action, she raises questions about belonging, attraction, and the subtle bonds that hold families and friends together. Readers will hope for a sequel. --Gillian Engberg

Kirkus Review

When Saffron is eight, she finds out that she was adopted at age three, after her mother-her adoptive mother's sister-died in a car accident in Italy. For the next five years, she feels isolated despite her loving, sympathetic mother and siblings. Now 13, she learns that she has inherited a stone angel from her beloved grandfather and, since no one knows where it is, resolves to find it. With the help of her new friend Sarah and Sarah's parents, Saffron travels to Italy to seek her angel and returns more content. Although the focus is on Saffron's inner and outer journeys, the most vivid character turns out to be, not Saffron, but Rose, her shrewd, determined younger sister. Some very funny scenes revolve around Rose and her singular approach to life. Humor also springs from the eccentricities of the other family members, each of whom doggedly pursues interests, from painting to preparing for future polar expeditions. The secondary characters of Sarah and her parents stand out as unpredictable and engaging, making the trip to Italy the high point of the story. While not as distinctive as The Exiles and Dog Friday, this is nevertheless an enjoyable outing characterized by a spirit of warmth and humor. (Fiction. 9-13)



Chapter One When Saffron was eight, and had at last learned to read, she hunted slowly through the color chart pinned up on the kitchen wall. It was a painter's color chart, from an artists' materials shop. It showed all the colors a painter could ever need. There were rows and rows of little squares, each a different shade of red or blue or green or golden yellow. Every little square had the name of the color underneath. To the Casson children those names were as familiar as nursery rhymes. Other families had lullabies, but the Cassons had fallen asleep to lists of colors. Saffron found Indigo almost at once, a smoky dark blue on the bottom row of the chart. Indigo was two years younger than Saffron. His name suited him exactly. "If there is one thing your mother was good at," Bill Casson, the children's father, would say, "it was choosing names for you children!" Eve, the children's mother, would always look pleased. She never protested that there might be more than one thing that she was good at, because she never thought there was. Indigo was a thin, dark-haired little boy with anxious indigo-colored eyes. He had a list in his head of things that did not matter (such as school), and another list of things that did. High on Indigo's list of things that mattered was his pack. That was how he thought of his sisters. His pack. Saffron was the middle one of the pack. Saffron had to climb onto a stool to see the color chart properly. The stool had a top of woven string that was coming unwoven, and its legs rocked on the irregular tiles of the kitchen floor. "I can't find me," she grumbled to Indigo, wobbling on the stool. "I can't find Saffron written anywhere." "What about the rest of us?" asked Indigo, not looking up. "What about the baby?" Indigo was crouched on the hearth rug, sorting through the coal bucket. Pieces of coal lay all around. Sometimes he found lumps speckled with what he believed to be gold. He looked like a small black devil in the shadowy room with the firelight behind him. "Come and help me look for Saffron!" pleaded Saffron. "Find the baby first," said Indigo. Indigo did not like the baby to be left out of anything that was going on. This was because for a long time after she was born, it had seemed she would be left out of everything, and forever. She had very nearly eluded his pack. She had very nearly died. Now she was safe and easy to find, third row up at the end of the pinks. Rose. Permanent Rose. Rose was screaming because the health visitor had arrived to look at her. She had turned up unexpectedly, from beyond the black, rainy windows, and picked up Rose with her strong, cold hands, and so Rose was screaming. "Make Rose shut up!" shouted Saffron from her stool. "I'm trying to read!" "Saffron reads anything now!" the children's mother told the health visitor proudly. "Very nice!" the health visitor replied, and Saffron looked pleased for a moment, but then stopped when the health visitor added that both her twins had been fluent readers at four years old and had gone right through their elementary school library by the age of six. Saffron glanced across to Caddy, the eldest of the Casson children, to see if this could possibly be true. Caddy, aged thirteen, was absorbed in painting the soles of her hamster's feet, but she felt Saffron's unhappiness and gave her a quick, comforting smile. Since Rose's arrival the Casson family had heard an awful lot about the health visitor's multitalented twins. They were in Caddy's class at school. There were a number of rude and true things that Caddy might have said about them, but being Caddy, she kept them to herself. Her smile was enough. Caddy appeared over and over on the color chart, all along the top row. Cadmium Lemon, Cadmium Deep Yellow, Cadmium Scarlet, and Cadmium Gold. No Saffron, though. "There isn't a Saffron," said Saffron after another long search. "I've looked, and there isn't! I've read it all, and there isn't!" Nobody seemed to hear at first. Caddy continued painting her hamster's feet. The baby continued screaming. Eve continued explaining to the health visitor (who frightened her very much) that she had not noticed anything at all wrong with Rose until the health visitor pointed it out, and the health visitor continued tut-tutting. "I can't find Saffron!" complained Saffron crossly. Indigo said, "Saffron's yellow." "I know Saffron's yellow!" "Well then, look under the yellows," Indigo said, and tipped the whole of the coal bucket upside down on the hearth, enveloping his end of the room in a cloud of coal dust. This made the health visitor start coughing as well as tutting. "I don't know how you keep your patience!" she said to Eve. Her voice showed that she thought it would be much better if Eve did not. She had dropped in to weigh Rose, as she often did, and had noticed at once that the baby had gone a very strange color. A sort of brownish mustard. She seemed to think it was a terrible thing that Rose should have gone mustard without anybody noticing. She began undressing her. "I've looked under all the yellows," said Saffron loudly and belligerently, "and I've looked under all the oranges too, and there isn't a Saffron!" Rose wailed even louder because she didn't want to be undressed. Her mother said, "Oh, darling! Darling!" Indigo began hammering at likely-looking lumps of coal with the handle end of the poker. Caddy let the hamster walk across the table, and it made a delicate and beautiful pattern of rainbow-colored footprints all over the health visitor's notes. "Why isn't there a Saffron?" demanded Saffron. "There's all the others. What about me?" Then the health visitor said the thing that changed Saffron's life. She looked up from picking something out of Rose's clenched fist and said to the children's mother, "Doesn't Saffron know?" The words fell into a moment of silence. Rose held her breath between roars. Caddy's head jerked up and her eyes were startled. Indigo stopped hammering. Eve went scarlet and looked very confused and began an unhappy mumble. A not-yet, not-now sort of mumble. "Know what?" asked Saffron, looking from the health visitor to her mother. "Nothing, dear," said the health visitor in a bright, careless voice, and Saffron, who was frightened without knowing why, allowed herself to believe this was true. "Nothing, nothing!" repeated the health visitor, half singing the words, and then in a completely different voice, "Good heavens! What on earth is this?" Rose's fist had come undone, revealing that she held a tube of paint (Yellow Ochre), obviously very much sucked. "Paint! " said the health visitor, absolutely horrified. "Paint! PAINT! She's had a tube of paint! This household...I don't know! She's been sucking a tube of paint!" "What color?" asked Indigo immediately. "Yellow Ochre," Caddy told him. "I gave it to her. I didn't think she'd suck it. Anyway, I'm only using nontoxic colors." "Caddy!" said her mother, laughing. "No wonder she's gone such a funny color!" "I'm ringing the hospital!" said the health visitor in a voice of controlled calm. "Wrap her up in something warm! Don't give her anything to drink! We'll go straight to Emergency...." Then for a while Saffron forgot her worries while they all tried to convince the health visitor that none of Caddy's colors were in the least poisonous, and that Rose, except for needing washing, was quite all right. "But why did you give it to her?" the health visitor asked Caddy. "To make her let go of the Chinese White," said Caddy. "Chinese White's sweet," explained Saffron, and then there was another fuss. While it was going on, Indigo got bored and went back to his gold hunting, bashing a lump of coal so hard that pieces flew everywhere, and the baby got a chunk to suck, and the hamster jumped in fright into the health visitor's bag, and the health visitor said, "Thank goodness my twins...! If that hamster has made a mess...I suppose this is what they call artistic...." "Yes," said Eve eagerly. "They are all very -- " "You need the patience of a saint in my job!" said the health visitor as she left. After she had gone, the children's mother hunted through the kitchen cupboards looking for something for supper. While she was doing it, she cried a bit because it was so hard being an artist with four children to look after, especially in wet weather, when rain blew under the kitchen door and down all the chimneys and into the hood of the car so that it would not start and she could not get to the supermarket. She thought wistfully of the shed at the end of the garden, her favorite place in the world. Only Rose noticed she was crying. Rose watched her with unsurprised blue eyes, enjoying the sniffs. The kitchen cupboard was full of nonfood sorts of food. Lentils and cereal and packaged sauces and jam. Eve had almost given up hope when she unearthed a large and completely unexpected can of baked beans, the sort with sausages in it, a small miracle. "Daddy must have bought them!" she exclaimed, as happy as she had been miserable a moment before. The beans changed everything. Saffron took over the toaster. Caddy put the hamster into its cage and cleared the table. Indigo picked up his lumps of coal. Permanent Rose sucked a crust of bread and smiled at everyone and waited patiently until someone should think of scrambling her an egg. Eve stirred the beans and sausages and was grateful to the children's father. He was a real artist, not a garden-shed one like herself. He was such a very real artist that he could work only in London. He rented a small studio at enormous expense and came home only on weekends. Real artists, he often explained to Caddy and Saffron and Indigo, cannot work with three children under their feet and a baby that wakes up several times every night. "Clever, clever Daddy, buying beans!" said Eve. "Rose could have an egg," suggested Caddy, reading Rose's mind. "I wonder if Dad bought anything else," said Indigo, and he and Saffron at once began searching the kitchen cupboards themselves, hoping for more surprises. A lump of coal turned up, with a glitter of gold on it, and a bag of squashed pink and white marshmallows, which they floated on hot chocolate and shared with Rose from the end of a spoon. It was a very happy evening and bedtime before Saffron asked again, "Why isn't my name on the color chart? Why isn't there a Saffron?" "Saffron is a lovely color," said her mother evasively. "But it's not on the chart." "Well..." "The others are." "Yes." "But not me." "I thought of calling you Siena. Or Scarlet." "Why didn't you?" There was a long, long pause. "It wasn't me who chose your name." "Dad?" "No. Not Daddy. My sister." "Your sister who died?" "Yes. Go to sleep, Saffy. Rose is crying. I've got to go." "Siena," whispered Saffy. Saffy had a dream that came over and over. In the dream was a white paved place with walls. A sunny place, quiet and enclosed. There were little dark, pointed trees and there was the sound of water. The blue sky was too bright to look at. In the dream something was lost. In the dream Saffy cried. In the dream was the word, Siena. Caddy's bed was close enough to touch. Saffy could tell by the feel of the darkness that Caddy was awake. She said, "Caddy, how long ago can you remember?" "Oh," said Caddy, "ages. I can remember when I could only lie flat. On my back. I can remember how pleased I was when I learned to roll over." "You can't!" "I can. And I remember learning to crawl. It hurt my knees." "No one can remember that far back!" "Well, I can. I remember it quite clearly. The burny feeling it gave my knees." "Do you remember a white stone garden?" "What white stone garden?" "Siena." "No," said Caddy. "That was you, not me." The next morning Indigo gave Saffron his gold-speckled lump of coal, and Cadmium added an extra color square to the top row of the paint chart, Saffron Yellow. In London, Bill Casson shut up his small (and very expensive) studio midweek and caught the first train home. None of these things meant anything at all to Saffron. All she could think of was the terrible news that she had forced from Eve the night before. Bit by bit, while Rose slept and Indigo argued and Caddy watched and was silent, Saffron had dragged it out. That was how she discovered that Eve was not her mother. Nor was a real (and nearly successful) artist in London her father. Worst of all, Caddy and Indigo and Rose were not her brother and sisters. "You're not my family," said Saffron. "We are!" cried Eve. "Of course we are! We adopted you! We wanted you! Your mother was my sister! Caddy and Indigo and Rose are your cousins!" "That doesn't count," said Saffron. "I'm not doing this right," said Eve, weeping. "There are books on how to do it right. I have read them. You were only three. You looked just like Caddy. You called me Mummy. You were so happy. Almost as soon as you arrived, you were happy!" "Why was it a secret?" "It wasn't a secret!" protested Eve, trying to hug Saffron (who ducked). "I was waiting for the right time to tell you, that's all. And the longer I left it, the harder it was. I should have done it right at the start!" "Caddy knew! And didn't tell me!" "I forgot," said Caddy. "Forgot!" "Nearly always." "No wonder I'm not on the color chart," said Saffron. Everything seemed to change for Saffron after the day she deciphered the color chart and discovered that her name was not there and found out why this was. She never felt the same again. She felt lost. "But everything is just the same," said Bill, trying to help. "Nothing has changed, Saffy darling. We love you just as much as we ever did. You are just as much ours as you always were." "No, I'm not," said Saffy. Eve produced photographs of Saffy's mother, but they were very confusing. Saffron's mother had been Eve's twin sister. They were so alike that even Eve had to puzzle over some of the pictures before she could say who was who. "What about my father?" Saffron asked. This was a difficult question. Saffron's mother had never told Eve anything about Saffron's father. "Your mummy never talked about him," she said at last. "Not even to you?" "Well," said Eve, sighing as she remembered. "She was in Italy and I was in England. So it was difficult. I was always going to go and visit her, and I never quite did. I wish I had." "Was she an artist? Like you." "Oh, no," said Eve. "Linda was much cleverer than me! She taught English. In Italy. In Siena. You were born in Siena, that's why I thought it would make such a good name...." Saffron was not listening. She looked at the picture of her mother again and said, "Anyway, she's dead." "Yes." "Killed in a car crash." "Yes, darling." "Where was I? Did I see her dead?" "No," said Eve with relief. "You were at home. At your home in Siena. With Grandad. He was visiting." "Grandad!" "Yes. He was there when it happened. He brought you back here to us." "Grandad did?" "Yes, Grandad did. He wasn't always like he is now, Saffy darling." The Casson children's grandfather was like nothing at all. He lived in a nursing home. He sat. Sometimes in summer he sat in the garden, guided there with a nurse at each side. Sometimes he sat in a lounge and looked at a television set that was not always switched on. Often Eve would collect him and bring him back home with her, and he would sit there instead. Only once, in all his years of sitting, had he said a word to show that he remembered anything at all of his previous life. He had said, "Saffron." Everyone had heard. "Is Grandad still my grandad?" Saffron asked Eve, when it seemed that the whole pattern of her family was slipping and changing, like colors in water, into something she hardly recognized. Eve said that of course he was. Just as he had always been. Exactly the same. "But was he my grandad right from the beginning?" persisted Saffron, determined to have the truth this time. "Like he was Caddy's and Indigo's and Rose's?" "Yes," said Eve at once, and Caddy added, "He is just as much your grandad as ours, Saffy. More." "More?" asked Saffron suspiciously. "Much more," said Caddy, "because he remembers you. He knows your name. Everybody heard. He said, 'Saffron.'" "Yes, he did," Saffron agreed, and allowed herself to feel a tiny bit comforted. Caddy was the only one of the Casson children who could recall the days when their grandfather could drive and walk and talk and do things like anybody else. She told Saffron about the evening when he had arrived at the house, bringing Saffron home. "He had a green car. A big green car and it was full of toys. He'd brought all your toys, he told us. Every crayon. Every scrap of paper. You used to pick up stones, he said. Little bits of stone. He brought them all. In a can." Nothing was ever thrown away in the Casson family. Saffron went upstairs to the bedroom she shared with Caddy and Rose and raked around until she found the scratched blue coffee can. The stones were still there, bits of gold sandstone, marble chips, and a fragment of a red roof tile. "Grandad said, 'She's cried all the way. Not for her mother. For something else. I should have managed to bring it somehow. I promised I would. I shall have to go back.'" "What was he talking about?" "I don't know. He went away that same night. We didn't see him again for ages and ages, and when we did, he was different." "What sort of different?" "Like he is now," said Caddy. Copyright © 2001 by Hilary McKay Chapter Two The Casson house had been chosen by the children's parents before Caddy was born. They had liked it because it was unspoiled. Unspoiled meant no central heating, coal fires in every room (even the bedrooms and kitchen), and its own particular smell, which was a mixture of dampness and soot and a sort of green smell that came in from the garden. The garden always seemed to be trying to sneak its way into the house. Ivy crept in through the cracks around the windowpanes. Wood lice and beetles and ants and snails had their own private entrances. In autumn dead leaves swirled in every time a door was opened, and in spring live birds fell down the chimneys. The house had a name. The Banana House. It was carved onto a piece of sandstone above the front door. It made no sense to anyone. It stood at the middle of a long road. At one end of the road were fine houses with graveled drives, but the Banana House was not one of those. At the other end were little cottages with bright new paint and tidy gardens. The Banana House was not one of those, either. It was quite alone in the middle. A disgrace to both ends! Bill Casson had thought once on one of his brief visits from London, and he wondered why it never occurred to Eve that she might paint the windows and tidy the overgrown grass and grow flowers in the garden. The only things that grew in the garden were guinea pigs. Caddy owned at least half a dozen of them, scattered around in ramshackle runs and hutches. Occasionally they escaped and flocked and multiplied over the lawn like wildebeests on the African plains. Like the hamsters in the house, the guinea pigs on the lawn were Caddy's responsibility. Only she was really interested in them. Caddy, and a child in a wheelchair from one of the fine houses up the road. Time passed, but the Banana House stayed the same. Generations of guinea pigs came and went. Years went by so quickly that Bill and Eve constantly lost track of the children's ages. Caddy and Saffron grew long legs and long gold hair. Indigo took to dressing entirely in black. Rose started school. "At last," said the health visitor disapprovingly. "She ought to have gone a year ago!" "She was so delicate," pleaded Eve. "Not anymore," said the health visitor. "She is quite robust now! Very robust, in fact!" Eve looked so shocked at this opinion that Rose asked Saffron privately, "What does robust mean?" "Tough," said Saffron. Rose looked pleased. On her first day of school Rose drew a picture of the Banana House that made it look exactly like a banana with windows. In Rose's picture the garden streamed from the roof of the house like a banner in the wind, bright green and covered with giant guinea pigs. At the end of the garden was a rainbow-colored box. "Mummy's shed," Rose explained, and drew her mother on the roof. "What is she doing?" asked the teacher. "Waving," said Rose. There were people waving out of the windows of the house, too. Rose colored them in as well as she could with horrible school wax crayons. "Caddy, Saffron, Indigo, and me," she said. "Waving good-bye." "Who to?" "Daddy," said Rose. Waving good-bye to Daddy was as much a part of Casson life as the color chart on the kitchen wall, and the guinea pigs on the grass, and the girl in the wheelchair. Once Rose had pointed to her. "Don't point!" her father had snapped furiously. "Don't point and don't stare!" None of the Cassons pointed or stared, but the wheelchair girl still kept going past the house now and then. She remained a stranger. Rose did not put her into the picture of the banana-shaped house. Rose's work of art took her all day, including two playtimes, story time, and most of lunch. At the end of school it was stolen from her by the wicked teacher who had pretended to be so interested. "Beautiful -- what-is-it?" she asked as she pinned it high on the wall, where Rose could not reach. "They take your pictures," said Indigo, who was waiting for Rose at the school gate, when he finally made out what all the roaring and stamping was about. "They do take them. You have to not care." Indigo was now eleven, in the top class of the elementary school, the opposite end to Rose. He was still small and thin, but less anxious now. He had learned to write his problems down in lists, and this made him feel more in control. He still thought of his sisters as his pack. "Why do you want that picture so much?" he asked Rose. "It was my best ever," said Rose furiously. "I hate school. I hate everyone in it. I will kill them all when I'm big enough." "You can't just go round killing people," Indigo told her, but he looked at her hunched-up shoulders and her drooping head and thought it was sad to see Rose, Permanent Rose, usually such a cheerful and obstinate member of his pack, completely changed after one day at school. "Sometimes they give them back at the end of term," he told her comfortingly. "Anyway, you can always do another. Let's go home!" "It was my best ever," repeated Rose, not moving. "We can't stay here all night!" Rose still did not budge. "Oh, all right!" said Indigo in exasperation. "I'll go and pinch it off the wall for you! Just this once! Never again!" "No, never again," agreed Rose, cheering up with amazing speed and following as he led the way back into school and along the empty corridors to the scene of the crime. "This is only because it's your first day!" he told her. "You needn't think I'm doing it every time they stick a picture of yours up on the wall...." "I shan't do any more pictures," said Rose, pushing open the door of the class-one classroom (luckily empty). "I shan't do anything else, ever. Not at school." "That's what you think! Where's this picture, then? Is that it?" "Yes. Do you like it?" "Mmmm," said Indigo, levering out the thumbtacks. "Not bad. Bit like a banana. There you are. Roll it up! Oy! Wait for me!" Rose did not wait, but sprinted out of school as fast as she could and was well on her way down the road home before Indigo caught up with her. "What about in the morning?" he asked as they half jogged and half walked along together. "What'll you tell them if they notice?" "I could not go back in the morning," said Rose hopefully, but Indigo squashed that idea at once. For a while he walked along frowning, with his hands in his pockets. "I know," he said suddenly, looking up. "We'll make a copy! They can have that! Easy, especially if Saffron and Caddy help!" "Saffron won't," said Rose, and Saffron wouldn't. "You'll never get away with it!" she said after one look at the banana. "No one could copy that! They'll see it's the wrong one straightaway!" "Course they won't," said Caddy, now eighteen and at college, supposed to be passing a few exams. "Give it here, Rose! I'll do it for you." Caddy's copy was perfect, down to four thumbtack holes in the corners. "Just in case anyone catches you with it before you get it up on the classroom wall," she explained. "If I didn't put them in, it would be obvious at once that you were planting a fake. Mind you use the same holes when you pin it up!" Indigo and Rose looked at her with respect. Caddy could be surprisingly intelligent, considering how many exams she had failed. Everything went exactly to plan. Indigo and Rose left for school extra early the next morning and pinned the copy of the Banana House in place, and nobody ever spotted the difference. "You think you are all so clever," said Saffron. "You could have helped," Rose pointed out. "You didn't want to help." "No, I didn't," snapped Saffron crossly. "It doesn't matter anyway," said Rose tranquilly, admiring her picture for the hundredth time through half-closed eyes. "Because I've got it safe now. It just needs framing...a big gold frame..." "What needs a big gold frame?" asked Eve, coming through the door in time to catch Rose's last words. "Your picture, Rose? Why don't you ask Daddy when he comes home next. He's good at frames. Saffy darling, I came in to ask you to hurry back from school tomorrow. Grandad's coming for the evening." "Grandad doesn't only like Saffron!" said Rose. "Of course he doesn't," said Eve. "I need a big gold frame now, not when Daddy comes home!" "I might have one in the shed you could use." "Grandad likes all of us just the same." "Of course he does," agreed Eve soothingly, and she smiled at Saffron over Rose's head. Saffron's black mood slipped away and she found herself smiling back, and she said to Rose, "Of course he likes us all just the same." Their grandfather was in the kitchen when the children arrived home the next day. This pleased everyone. They all loved him, lately with a sort of fierce defiance, very like the way they had loved Rose years earlier, when she was so frighteningly impermanent. They hurried to include him in their lives. Rose brought him the Banana House picture to look at, and he sat holding it in his thin hands for a long time before laying it on the table. Caddy told him about her driving lessons. A few months ago her father had arrived from London, inspected her exam results (appalling), and announced that it was about time Caddy learned to work. He had then enrolled her to take over everything she had failed, and arranged a course of driving lessons for her. Caddy told her grandfather how good she was at emergency stops and how bad she was at everything else, especially reversing, which she called going backward. Her grandfather looked as if he was listening. "Feel that!" said Indigo, pulling up his sweatshirt sleeve and putting his grandfather's hand on his almost visible biceps, and his grandfather appeared to feel it. Indigo was very pleased and went to find the picture of the ice ax he was saving up to buy. "I want one too," said Rose. "When you are older," said Indigo kindly. Saffron did not bring anything to show her grandfather, or talk to him, or explain pictures of ice axes in catalogs. She just sat beside him. Saffron, who had grown up to be so fierce and alone, was always gentle with her grandfather. Eventually Caddy kissed him good-bye and left for her driving lesson, with a hamster in her pocket for comfort. Eve came in from her shed at the end of the garden and tried to send Rose to bed. "Without any supper?" asked Rose, and Eve said, "Food, food, I forgot about food!" Indigo (who by necessity was growing into a very brave cook) said, "I am making fried corned beef sandwiches for everyone," and then the evening became very noisy and smoky. Indigo cut his finger on the corned beef can, and Rose had to bandage it because Caddy was out and Saffron wouldn't and Eve could not bear the sight of blood. After that there was a quarrel about who would eat bled-on sandwiches (Rose and Indigo) and who would rather starve (Saffron). During the quarrel Eve suddenly said, "Grandad's tired!" Saffron looked at him then and saw how terribly faded he had become. He looked narrow and lost. All at once she began to cry. She put her arms around her grandfather and cried and cried, and Eve said, "Come on, Saffy. Let's take him home." Caddy's driving instructor was called Michael. He had been a wonderful surprise to Caddy the first time she met him. She had been expecting someone gray haired and short tempered and not at all nice. All her friends' driving instructors were like that. Michael said to Caddy, "Now Cadmium, we are coming up to a crossroads. I should like you to take the turn on the right." "Right," said Caddy happily, very pleased to be out with Michael again. "I'll remember!" "You should be slowing down. Look in your mirror." Caddy looked and said, "I don't like this lipstick." "You don't need lipstick," said Michael, who always found it very difficult to keep up a professional detachment where Caddy was concerned. "You...turn signal! Turn signal!" "Too pink," said Caddy. "TURN RIGHT, CADMIUM, PLEASE!" "But it was free. It came through the mail. A little tiny one. So I thought I'd try it -- " "I said right! Crikey! Pull up and park immediately, please, Caddy. Please, Caddy!" " -- on you," said Caddy, parking very neatly in an entrance marked KEEP CLEAR AT ALL TIMES. "What's the matter? Are you all right?" Caddy had driving lessons twice a week. She had had dozens. After every lesson Michael had to drive off and find somewhere quiet so he could rest his head on the steering wheel and try to relax. He didn't know why he put up with it, and yet every week he found himself coming back for more. "Are you all right?" asked Caddy. "No, you're not! You're cross! Again!" "I'm not," said Michael. "Please change places, Cadmium dear." Caddy jumped out of her seat with relief and back in at the passenger door. Michael turned the car very quickly and headed back the way they had come. "What do you notice about this street?" he asked conversationally. "Lovely gardens," said Caddy, getting out her hamster. "It's one-way! Turn right, I said, and instead you turned left up a one-way street! Then you parked in the fire station exit. And that mirror is for looking behind you, not admiring your lipstick in!" "I wasn't! I said it was too pink!" "And I told you not to bring that hamster again!" "Why are you stopping?" "So you can drive. Your dad pays me to teach you to drive." "That reminds me," said Caddy. "Don't laugh. I promised him I'd ask you, but don't laugh. My driving test. He said to ask you when. That's all. You're laughing. I knew you would." "You could learn if you tried," said Michael when Caddy was back in the driver's seat and he, much against his better judgment, was holding the hamster. "You just need to stop mucking about and concentrate a bit." "That's what they used to tell me at school," said Caddy. "I remember them saying it before my tests. And it wasn't true. It didn't work. I got awful grades in nearly everything. Biology, chemistry, physics, math, English language, English literature, French, and business studies. Awful. And last summer I failed all three A-level exams. All three. I'm just no good at exams. Is it time to go home?" "No. Twenty minutes. We'll do some reversing." "Oh, Michael darling!" "Don't call me darling, I'm a driving instructor!" "Sorry. It was because I hate going backward." "My girlfriend," said Michael suddenly, as Caddy reversed up a curb, "passed her test when she was seventeen!" "Your girlfriend?" "Yep." "I didn't know you had a girlfriend." "Yep. Very bright. Passed all her exams, too. Top grades." "What's she called?" "What?" "What's she called?" "Oh, right. Er...Diane. Diane." "I'll try the corner again," said Caddy, gritting her teeth. "She leaves her hamsters at home, too," said Michael. The first thing Caddy and Michael saw when they arrived back from the driving lesson was Indigo. "Just look at that stupid kid!" exclaimed Michael, absolutely horrified. "No, don't jump out, Caddy! Don't startle him!" Indigo was sitting on his bedroom windowsill. On the outside of his bedroom windowsill, the open window behind him, his legs dangling into space and his eyes looking like two black holes in his white face. "I'm calling the fire brigade," muttered Michael to Caddy, searching feverishly through his pockets. "Where's my mobile phone? Are you sitting on it?" "No, and calm down! Michael darling," said Caddy soothingly. "You don't need to call anyone! Indigo often sits up there. He is curing himself of vertigo for when he becomes a polar explorer. It's a big, wide windowsill, and he has the curtains to hold on to. They're very strong. I tested them. He's waiting for me to talk him back. He freezes." "Freezes?" "With fear. So I'd better go. Thank you for the lovely lesson. Bye-bye, Michael." "Bye, Caddy." Michael waited as she disappeared into the house and reappeared at Indigo's window. He watched Indigo slowly defrost and begin to move. One leg swung back inside. Caddy's voice came floating down. "Now the other leg. You're perfectly safe. Don't look down. Look at me!" A moment later, and Indigo was back inside and waving cheerfully from the window with Caddy and Rose, who had also appeared. Michael suddenly felt very left out and drove quickly away. Copyright © 2001 by Hilary McKay Excerpted from Saffy's Angel by Hilary McKay All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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