Book review

Flour Babies by Anne Fine (1992)

Do you know what a flour baby is? It's a 3 kg sack of flour. The boys in class 4C are given a flour baby each for the school Science Fair. They are instructed to look after it day and night for three weeks as if it were a real baby. It must never be left unattended, it must be kept clean and dry, and it must be weighed regularly and checked for evidence of casual neglect or maltreatment.

Simon Martin, large and loutish, turns into a real softie when he meets his flour baby:

She was sweet. She was dressed in a frilly pink bonnet and a pink nylon frock, and carefully painted on her sacking were luscious sexy round eyes fringed with fluttering lashes.
Robin Foster, beside him, was jealous instantly.
'How come you get one with eyes? Mine's just plain sacking. Do you want to swap?'
Simon tightened his grip round his flour baby.
'No. She's mine. You paint eyes on your own if you want them.'
'And yours has clothes!' He turned to yell at Mr Cartright, who was just coming to the end of tossing bags of flour round the room. 'Sir! Sir! Sime's dolly has got a frock and a bonnet and eyes and everything. And mine's got nothing. It's not fair.'
'If every parent who had a baby who was a bit lacking sent it back,' Mr Cartright said. 'This classroom would be practically empty. Sit down and be quiet.'

As you might imagine, there's a certain amount of resistance from 4C to their part in the Science Fair, but they do reluctantly get on with the job, carrying their babies round with them and filling in their baby diaries as they go.

It's surprising what you can learn in such a short time. It takes Robin Foster just eleven days to reach breaking point. He kicks his flour baby into the canal and it sinks without trace. Sajid, the entrepreneur, offers a reliable, if expensive, babysitting service.

But Simon Martin, whose own father walked out on his mother when Simon was only six weeks old, begins to understand just how tough it is to constantly care for a baby. And let's face it, Simon's baby doesn't cry in the night, or need to be fed or changed. Once Simon can understand the emotions that his father must have felt, he can forgive and forget.

This is a beautifully written book. I'm sure you will enjoy Flour Babies. Highly recommended!

What can I read next?

Anne Fine has written many books, all full of humour and extremely enjoyable. Her characters deal with real life problems and come up with real solutions, or at least compromises. You might also like to look at:

If you enjoy Flour Babies, and are looking for something similar, you might like to look at this one by Robert Swindells:

Susan Gates writes a lively story. Have a look at:

Michael Coleman writes about real problems at school:

And I really enjoyed Kirsty Murray's insight into real life in a circus, elephant dung and all!:

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