Berlie Doherty is a double Carnegie Medal winner for Granny was a Buffer Girl (now published by Catnip) and Dear Nobody but this book for younger readers was also highly commended in 1995 – perhaps because it is utterly wonderful.
We publish much of Berlie's backlist, as well as her new Peak Dale Farm series, and Willa and Old Miss Annie was a combination of the two – a backlist book that feels consistent with her new series. As with Peak Dale Farm, this book, a collection of three stories that read as chapters, is illustrated by Kim Lewis and her classic style accentuates the events of the stories perfectly.
The stories tell of the unusual friendship between young Willa and her elderly neighbour, Miss Annie. The pair are united by their love of animals, specifically a goat, a pony and a fox. Berlie is an author who knows the importance of honesty in the relationship between author and young reader and shows no fear in holding a mirror up to human nature. As a consequence Willa and Old Miss Annie touches upon the cruelty that can arise from ignorance and selfishness yet gently demonstrates how relationships can be forged in misunderstanding only to grow into something rewarding. As with everything Berlie writes the language is both perfectly clear and perfectly clever with gentle wordplay forming an integral part of each storyline.
Everything I’ve read by Berlie has been a pleasure but when I first read this, it delighted me beyond my expectations. But you have been warned: I cried. Yes, I am a big softie.