It's the start of a new term at Puddleducks Playgroup, and for Gemma Merryfield, it'll be her first year in charge. Watching the new arrivals, she can already tell who the troublemakers will be, and not all of them are children!
What Gemma doesn't realise is that former banker, Joe Balls, now head of Reception at the neighbouring school, will be watching her every move. As far as he's concerned, Puddleducks puts too much emphasis on fun and games, and not enough on numbers.
But when one of the children falls dangerously ill and another disappears, Gemma and Joe have to set aside their differences and work together...
This was one book that I was willing to break my book buying ban for as it had been on my Amazon wishlist for months so I was very fortunate indeed to be sent a copy of the book to review which enabled me to save my pennies for another day. Thank you Arrow Publishing.
Janey Fraser is just one of the pen names used by former journalist Jane Bidder who has also written books under another pen name, Sophie King and her new married name Jane Corry. I wonder does she ever get confused as to which name she should use when answering the phone...
The main characters in the book are Gemma, who is temporarily running Puddleducks playgroup whilst Miriam is on maternity leave, and Joe Balls, an ex corporate banker who has just been appointed as the new head of the reception class at nearby Corrybank primary school. At first they cannot see eye to eye, Joe doesn't believe the children are being taught enough, especially a lack of maths, and thinks that there is too much emphasis being put on play and fun rather than education whereas Gemma believes that play can be educational.
But certain events that happen force them to work together and see the good qualities that each of them has to offer.
I loved reading about the interactions of the children with each other and the little traits that some of them had, particularly the behavioural issues with Billy, so it's obvious that she has done a lot of research into this or knows a child with similar problems as I could recall memories of someone I knew just from the types of actions she was describing.
And then there's the parents; neurotic American mum, Nancy, who at first I didn't reaIly like but about half way through I book I began to understand why she was the way she acted and actually grew to like her; celebrity mum Dilly Dalung who has chosen to send her daughter to a public playgroup instead of a private one which causes security issues at the playgroup; a stay at home dad who I would have loved to be my dad; mum's Brigid and Annie, who originally met Nancy at anti-natal classes, who take Nancy under their wing to help her see that sending her son to playgroup is a good thing.
Although there are quite a few characters within the book that I did sometimes need to think about which parent belonged to which child, after a while it became second nature so didn't disrupt the storyline at all.
I also enjoyed reading the labels that she gave to some of the parents' characteristics and I'm sure those of you with kids at school can probably relate to the various types mentioned throughout the book such as Fussy Mum, Late Mum, Always Working Mum, Pushy Mum, Casual Mum etc. Arrow Publishing came up with a fun quiz, what type of mum are you, to correspond with the release of this book which I featured in my sneak peeks post.
If I didn't have to go to the dreaded thing called work and had the time, I think this is one book that I could have easily ploughed through in one sitting as it was so easy to read and completely lose track of time. I hope her next book, The Au Pair, which is due out later this year is as good a read as this one was.