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The Illustrated Mum

Review

The Illustrated Mum

Ten-year-old Dolphin and her older sister Star lead an unusual life --- sometimes wild, sometimes stressful, but never dull. Their mother Marigold is a beautiful, compulsively creative work of art --- almost every square inch of her body is covered in fantastic, one-of-a-kind tattoos. To Dolphin, Marigold is "the most magical mother in the whole world," with her boundless imagination, her childlike enthusiasm, and her willingness to do crazy things like baking a dozen kinds of cake in a single afternoon.

As Star gets older, though, Marigold is a burden. Too often, Star ends up playing the part of the mother when Marigold stays out too late, has too much to drink, brings home another boyfriend, or disappears to her room in a funk for days on end.

When Star's father Micky, the love of Marigold's life, reenters their lives, Star jumps on an opportunity to escape her chaotic life with Marigold. Dolphin, fiercely loyal to Marigold, stays behind to care for her mother. Soon, though, Dolphin begins to realize that Marigold's unpredictability --- her violent rages, her spending sprees, her impulsiveness --- might be the signs of a problem that's too big for her little family to solve on their own. Helped by her new friend Oliver and an unexpected ally, Dolphin must make a hard choice that could save her mother's life.

Told from Dolphin's point of view, THE ILLUSTRATED MUM brilliantly portrays a family united by love but threatened by mental illness. Dolphin fiercely loves her mother, and her willingness to admit that Marigold needs help is a sign of her own growing maturity. The words "bipolar disorder" are not included until near the end of the novel, allowing readers to get to know Marigold as a person rather than as a diagnosis. Instead, readers will see Marigold's character, and her daughters' love for her, as a complete picture --- as complex as the mural of tattoos that decorates her body.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on February 8, 2005

The Illustrated Mum
by Jacqueline Wilson

  • Publication Date: February 8, 2005
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 0385732376
  • ISBN-13: 9780385732376