The Brilliant Ideas of Lily Green (Lisa Siberry, Hardie Grant Egmont)
This debut middle-grade novel, which won Hardie Grant Egmont’s Ampersand Prize, ticks many familiar boxes. The main character: a 12-year-old on the cusp of maturity. The challenges: friendships, enemies, family, growing up. The emotions: pretty much all of them. The lessons: be true to yourself, beauty comes from being who you really are, if at first you don’t succeed … In Lisa Siberry’s The Brilliant Ideas of Lily Green, the narrative overlaying these familiar themes and messages is more original, with its beauty salon setting and magical plant plot twists. Lily has always loved concocting beauty products using crazy ingredients, though none of them have worked. When the future of her family’s salon is threatened, she is desperate to create something amazing, inspired by her late father’s history of wonderful inventions. When she accidentally includes a magical orange from the garden next door in her brew, something amazing really does happen. While these aspects are certainly original, they can feel strained at times and there’s a disconnect between the realism and the odd dash of magic. However, the narrative voice Siberry has created for Lily is authentic and comforting, and carries the reader along. All those obsessive slime-making children will totally get the joy (and disappointment) of combining ingredients to unexpected effect.
Lorien Kaye has been writing about books and the book industry for more than 20 years