Squishy Taylor in Zero Gravity written by Ailsa Wild, illustrated by Ben Wood (Hardie Grant Egmont) PB RRP $12.99
Reviewed by Liz Ledden
The fifth Squishy Taylor book opens with Squishy playing space-stations with her half-sisters Jessie and Vee (whom she refers to as her ‘Bonus Sisters’ throughout the series). This sets the scene for the book’s space-themed antics. While peering through their telescope to view a meteor shower, the girls notice something else intriguing. Someone resembling an astronaut is on a nearby rooftop, with what looks to be a rocket with visible sparks flying out.
The plot centres on Squishy’s determination to get to the bottom of the mystery, even if it means doing the wrong thing. Squishy, along with Jessie and Vee, hatch plans to sneak into the apartment building and make their way to the rooftop, deceiving their parents in the process and lying to the pyjama-clad man they find once they reach their destination.
Throughout, Squishy’s relationship with her stepmother Alice deteriorates. Squishy’s feelings towards Alice appear more hostile than in the previous Squishy Taylor books I’ve read (books one and four), and she yearns for her Geneva-dwelling birth mother for comfort more than ever.
The story’s conclusion sees a physically painful consequence for Squishy, yet her stepmother Alice’s reaction to the mayhem is inexplicably calm. While the Squishy Taylor books cleverly infuse action, mystery, fun and a touch of daredevil with real-life family issues, it felt as though this ending was a little too ‘nice’, considering Alice’s earlier impatience with Squishy. Regardless, the book’s page-turning hooks will keep young readers engaged, eager to discover who or what the strange astronaut and rocket may be.