Queenie is a British children's novel by Jacqueline Wilson, first published in 2013. The story focuses on Elsie Kettle, a little girl who lives with her nan (and rarely sees her estranged mother) in a basement flat, until Nan catches pulmonary tuberculosis and is taken to a sanatorium to try and recover. Elsie then lives with her mother, who comes home to look after her, but in days, Elsie and her mother are forced to attend a doctor's appointment, where it is revealed Elsie has bovine tuberculosis. Elsie then goes into a children's hospital, where she initially struggles with the harsh rules and the other children, but she eventually grows to like it, finding a friend especially in a nurse called Nurse Gabriel, and Queenie, the beautiful hospital cat who lives on the ward. In the end (in the epilogue), Elsie and Nan recover, and they go home to their new flat (because Elsie's mother let the other one go), and Elsie's mother goes back into show business. Nurse Gabriel tells them that Queenie has kittens, and they keep one, calling her Princess. Nan eventually dies, leaving Elsie devastated, but she has learned to cope on her own, and reflects that sixty years on the Queen is still reigning, and that now there is no tuberculosis.
Elsie Kettle is the daughter of Sheila Kettle, born after she had a one-night stand at a party in Fulham with a man called Frankie. Her mother initially took care of her when she was very small, but after her mother goes out of the house and neglects her, a landlady hears her crying, and she is placed in a children's home, where Elsie remembers there was a lot of other children, and that she had to eat cabbage and got smacked for wetting the bed. She is there for a few days, before her nan, Violet Kettle, comes to get her. After that, Elsie lives with Nan in their basement flat in Burlington when her mother is a stage performer.
Her mother is estranged from Elsie and does not see her daughter that often, as she is usually away on jobs or with a boyfriend. When she visits or stays at home for a short period of time, she often brings her boyfriend, or 'uncle' with her, which displeases Nan a great deal. When she goes to the children's hospital, her ability for telling stories eventually makes the other children warm to her, although her skill irritates her mother, tires her school teacher, Miss Roberts, and even occasionally bores Nan. During this time she befriends the beautiful hospital cat, Queenie, and a lovely, kind nurse called Nurse Gabriel. Although Elsie eventually has to leave the hospital when she recovers, her mother is still away in Canada with Mr Perkins, so Elsie ends up going into a childrens' home again, although it is, fortunately, nowhere near as dreadful an experience for her as the last one. Nurse Gabriel comes to visit her, keeping her promise, and Nan eventually recovers. Elsie goes to visit her, overjoyed, and soon they come home, but to a new flat, as Elsie's mother let the last one go. Nurse Gabriel finally sees Elsie one last time, giving her a parting gift - a kitten from a new litter Queenie has had, whom they name Princess. In the bittersweet ending, eight years later, Nan dies, leaving Elsie devastated, but then she is old enough to look after herself. Sixty years on, the Queen is still reigning - and Elsie is still alive, now even older than her grandmother, and she has her own little granddaughter, and is presumably married. She only wonders one thing - will she maybe still be alive to take her granddaughter to see Prince Charles' Coronation maybe, someday?
Elsie has a fantastic imagination, although to the extent that she fibs about things at school, and once to her nan. Her ability can make even the smallest things (like the kittens design on a satin covered chocolate box) seem real. She often uses this to her advantage with her mother, fudging things to get out of trouble, reasonably enough, as her mother gets angry at her more than is deemed necessary. She loves cats.
Nan (Violet Kettle)
Nan is a kind, warm woman, and is the mother of Sheila, the wife of Mr Kettle and the grandmother of Elsie. She married Mr Kettle and stayed in a beautiful cottage on their honeymoon. She loves her daughter, Sheila, but is irritated by her lack of interest in Elsie, her self-centeredness and her irresponsibility. She also often disapproves of Sheila's jobs, and even more so her boyfriends or 'uncles'. Elsie and her had bad colds in the winter, but when Elsie got better, Nan didn't, her cough staying, made worse by her smoking. Elsie finds her coughing on the sofa one day, but Nan says she is fine. Despite Elsie pleading for her to stay at home and rest, Nan still goes to work. When she collapsed at work with pulmonary tuberculosis, she went into the sanatorium to recover. Elsie came to visit her once, before she went into hospital with TB as well, this time bovine. She took a turn for the worse after Elsie had been in hospital for a while, even leading to her lung being collapsed. Elsie is upset by the news, Sheila is uncaring. Nan eventually begins to recover, further invigorated by her love for Elsie. Nurse Gabriel comes to visit her, informing Elsie of the news. Elsie comes to visit her when she is out of the hospital, and soon Nan is well enough to leave the sanatorium. As Sheila has let the last home go, Elsie and Nan get a new flat, and keep a kitten called Princess, given to them by Nurse Gabriel. Sheila comes back from Canada after Mr Perkins leaves her. She later goes back into show business. Eight years after her recovery, Nan dies.
Sheila Alice Kettle is the mother of Elsie and the daughter of Violet and Mr Kettle. Her father doted on her, even sending her to dancing lessons when she was small. She had a one-night stand at a party in Fulham with a man named Frankie. Elsie was born shortly after. Sheila cared for her daughter when she was very little, but after she went out and left her, Elsie was put into a childrens' home, until Nan came and got her. Nan then cared for Elsie. Sheila went away from home, often staying out there a long time (often with a boyfriend). When she came home, she often brought her boyfriend home with her, displeasing Nan. She is extremely self-centered and is mostly unsympathetic, even to her mother and Elsie. Her shallowness is shown in the facts that she puts her boyfriends or 'uncles' and her jobs above Elsie nearly all the time, and also because she only furthermore chooses her boyfriends for their good looks or their money. When Nan caught TB, she came home to care for Elsie, until Elsie caught it as well and went into a childrens' hospital. Sheila came to visit Elsie on some weekends, occasionally visiting Nan as well in the sanatorium (albeit grudgingly).
On the day Elsie had gone into hospital, Sheila had secured a new job (losing her old one up north because she had to stay and look after Elsie until she caught TB), this time as a secretary. Sheila blames her mother for supposedly contracting her TB onto Elsie, but this was proved not to be possible, as Nan had pulmonary tuberculosis (TB of the lungs) and Elsie had bovine tuberculosis in the knee (caught by drinking infected milk from cows). Sheila, despite Nurse Gabriel explaining that Elsie caught TB from drinking infected milk and not from Nan, remains scornful of Nan. Her visits stop when she and Mr Perkins (who is now her new boyfriend) move the business of Perkins' Pens to Canada. She comes back home eventually, to Elsie's and Nan's new flat, as she had let the last one go, when Mr Perkins leaves her for a young Canadian lady, leaving her to find her own way home. She goes back into show business at The Saucebox Follies, and visits Elsie and Nan occasionally.
She has had quite a few jobs, including one at Butlins, as a showgirl, and as a secretary for Mr Perkins.