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Literature / Dustbin Baby

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A 2001 novel by Jacqueline Wilson, about April, a girl who was abandoned in a dustbin behind a pizza restaurant minutes after being born. Even though she's now settled in a good home with a loving foster parent, Marion, she can't help but wonder why her birth mother didn't want her. Especially on her birthday. After getting into an argument with Marion over a birthday present, she decides to skip school to revisit all the homes she's lived in, leading back to the first home she ever knew - the dustbin.

The book was adapted into TV movie starring Dakota Blue Richards in 2008.


This book and film provide examples of:

  • Adults Are Useless:
    • Big Mo and Little Pete are completely blind to the fact sweet little Pearl is actually a bully who likes to torture April.
    • The guy in Sunnybank tasked with watching the entries and sorties is sleeping while duty, allowing Gina and her friends to go burgle nearby houses.
  • Artists Are Attractive: April reunites with her old friend Gina, who's grown into an artistic, compassionate, and beautiful adult.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Destroying April's paper dolls. Pearl learned this the hard way.
    • Abandonment becomes one for April in the movie. She storms away when Marion says she's going to retire from teaching, because that means leaving the school and therefore her.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Everyone in the foster home was shocked and surprised that April would push Pearl down the stairs. What they didn't know was Pearl had been bullying April nonstop for months.
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  • Birthday Hater: Guess who.
  • Bittersweet Ending: April did not find her birth mother and probably never will. But she did find the man who found her and has realized how much Marion loves her.
  • The Cameo:
    • Tanya from Bad Girls, another Wilson novel, makes an appearance.
    • Elaine, Tracy Beaker's social worker also appears, and mentions that one of her clients has been fostered by a single woman, likely referring to Cam fostering Tracy.
  • Deliberately Cute Child:
    • Pearl acts this way in front of the carers, so as to hide her sadistic streak.
    • April plays up her cuteness at Sunnybank so Gina and the other older kids will like her more.
  • Doorstop Baby: April was left in a dustbin.
  • Driven to Suicide: April's adoptive mother committed suicide in the bathtub after her husband left her.
  • Dull Eyes of Unhappiness: April visits the grave of her adoptive mother, which contains a photo of her on her wedding day. April notes how bright her eyes are, and sadly reflects that they didn't look like that at all when April knew her.
  • Dustbin School: After being discovered aiding and abetting Gina with her burglaries, April is sent to Fairgate, which houses girls with issues such as anorexia, Down syndrome or general behavioural problems.
  • Enfant Terrible: Pearl, a violent sociopath who bullies April, holds her underwater while they're bathing to the point where she passes out, and manages to avoid any consequences for it by pretending it was April who attacked her.
  • Happily Adopted: April was this with her adoptive family, until her parents split up and her mother killed herself. However, by the end of the novel, she's on her way to becoming this with Marian.
  • Innocent Inaccurate: Being very young at the time, April doesn't understand what happened to her mum until years later.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Pearl. To insane levels. Her idea of playing "Mermaids" during bath time is holding April under the water until she goes limp.
  • Meaningful Name: April was born and found on April Fools Day.
  • One-Night-Stand Pregnancy: April imagines that this might have been the reason why her mother abandoned her.
  • Parental Abandonment:
    • April is first abandoned in a dustbin when she was a baby.
    • Mr. Johnson, Her first adoptive father send her back to the social services after his wife Janet committed suicide.
    • Gina has to give up her first child for adoption after she was found unfit.
  • Parental Neglect: April's adoptive mother suffered from depression so badly that she couldn't take care of April, leaving her to try to wash her own clothes and cook for herself at the age of just five or six.
  • Protagonist Title: Being a description of the protagonist, having been found in a dustbin as a baby.
  • Searching for the Lost Relative: April was abandoned as a newborn by her mother. When she sets out on her birthday, she's theoretically going to find her. Though she never finds her, she does get put in touch with the man who found her all those years ago and manages to achieve some peace after a lifetime of abandonment.
  • Sickeningly Sweethearts: Lulu and Bob, who ran Sunnybank.
  • Teen Pregnancy: Gina is only 20-21, and would still have been a teenager when she had her first child. April thinks her birth mother may have been a young teenager who didn't know how to cope with a baby.
  • Tiny Guy, Huge Girl: April was once fostered by a couple who fit this trope, appropriately known as Big Mo and Little Pete.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: April gradually realises this over the course of the book, that she can't go back to the people who she stayed with before.