Monday, July 25, 2011

Finally by Wendy Mass

This book has been nominated for the 2011 Children's Book Award, and I gave it a rating of five out of five. Rory Swenson sets out to achieve all of the items on her list of things to do when she turns twelve. She'll be allowed to stay home alone, get a cellphone, get her ears pierced, babysit, and go to the mall without parent supervision, to name a few of the things she's looking forward to. However, things don't always work out the way she plans. The house makes strange noises, her cellphone number used to be for a pizza shop, and she has an allergic reaction to make-up. In addition, Jake Harrison, the cute, teenage movie star, is coming to her school to film a movie. How can a perfectly average girl like Rory manage to get Jake's girlfriend to hate her? How can all of her wishes turn out so wrong?

Rory has some soul-searching to do in this book. Are the wishes on her list the things she really wants? The problems she faces are the same as all sixth grade girls. It's amusing how almost every wish on her list backfires on her, and the film being shot at the school just complicates things further. Boys probably won't enjoy this book, but most girls should love it.

Lexile level from 750

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Trauma Queen by Barbara Dee

This book deals with many different issues for young adults, and I gave it a rating of five out of five. Marigold, Mari, moves to a new town with her mother and little sister for the last three weeks of the school year. Her parents are divorced, and her mother is a performance artist who frequently embarrasses Mari with her behavior. Her mother pours oil over her own head during career day, wraps herself in Saran Wrap to show plastic surgery, and then insults her best friend's mother with her performance of Nu-Trisha. Mari's best friend, Emma, may not speak to her anymore, and now her father plans to get remarried to "The Horrible Mona Woman". The kids at school are at war with each other, and Mari just wants to fit in quietly. That's going to be difficult to do after she wears her monkey pajamas to school (it wasn't Spirit Week like her mother said), and a boy starts to like her even though a popular girl has her eye on him. Then, Mari's mom announces that she's going to teach an improvisation class at Mari's school which will totally ruin her life!

Mari's problems are real-life, and her mother's actions are unexpected and amusing. The conflict with her mom grows until Mari starts to talk, and listen, to her mom and Gram. Mari's mom just asks that Mari look at her through her own eyes, not the eyes of everyone else. The plot builds to a nice climax with Mari's mom hosting a show of student performers, and it comes to a happy ending. The book has a nice message about the relationship between kids and their parents.

Lexile level from 660