Sunday, October 5, 2008
The title alone made me love this book, Geek Chic, by Margie Palatini. The cover just shouts, "Pick me! You'll have a lot of fun!" It's all bright colors, and bold lettering. Combine that with stars all over the cover, and finding out the main character's name is Zoey -- who could resist this book? Well, let me tell you, I certainly couldn't!!
I love it when first impressions match up with what you get to know later about a person or a thing. That's how I felt about this book. I predicted from seeing the front cover that Zoey would march to a different drummer -- she is wearing a purple beret, striped long-sleeved shirt, with an orange t-shirt over it, green tights, purple leggings over the tights that stop at the knee, argyle knee socks, and neon orange high-top sneakers. Quite the outfit, and Zoey is just the person to pull off this look! After seeing this picture, I open the book, and find out that Zoey is wishing for a fairy godmother:
"... being halfway to eleven is when you really absolutely need a fairy godmother the most. I'm going to require major fairy dust intervention in the hair department alone. There are just so many days a person can wear a hat, if you know what I mean."
And she's not kidding -- she spends most of the book waiting and wondering which person she meets will be the fairy godmother that is going to put her on the path to being "chic", just like "The Brashleys" (abbreviation for the 2 coolest girls in school -- Brittany and Ashley). **As a side note here, as an adult, I love how Palatini incorporates pop culture into her book; if there's a "Brangelina" in many gossipy magazines, why not a "Brashley" at Zoey's school? Back to my original point, though -- the Zoey I saw on the outside cover is exactly like the Zoey I encountered on the inside -- hats off to Palatini for that accomplishment!
One of my favorite things about this book is how it is plastered inside with post-it notes. The chapter titles, notes to the readers, notes to herself, her reflections -- all on Post-its. I am never far apart from a pad of Post-its to mark my thinking as I read or work, so this design technique really worked for me.
Other things that work in this book:
1) The way this entire story is told in stream of consciousness by the main character, Zoey. Very funny and so real!
2) The use of a wide variety of fonts -- very effective and very fun!
3) How, when Zoey is trying to set a scene for us, the text will turn into a play or a comic strip / graphic novelette. Both make the reader think a little more, but so much can be gained by reading the characters' motivations in the play, and inferring information while looking at the details of the pictures in the comics.
4) At a couple of times in the book, Zoey initiates a count-down to drum up suspense -- 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 -- each number on its own page. It made me curious each time to know where Zoey's thinking was headed next.
5) The Chic ZoCabulary list provided at the end of the book. Zoey is taking Italian lessons, and her speech is full of Italianized words, along with some of her own words, as well. I think this is a list with which most girls will be able to relate.
6) Table 10 (you have to read the book to understand!)
7) Zoey has her own website that is very interactive.
The big issue in Geek Chic is that Zoey is a fifth grader who knows she has only 198 days to be ready for 6th grade and middle school. Not academically, but in the coolability ratings. As someone who teaches 5th grade, I know that Zoey is not alone in thinking she needs to find a "coolness factor" before middle school. Many girls (and boys) struggle with that. For this reason, I think Zoey will appeal to lots of girls in this age group.
The ending of this book made me happy, and I think will hold hope for many girls who don't think they are as cool as the "Brashleys" of their school. I can't tell for sure, but the ending also leaves the door open for the possibility of a sequel or a series.
I'm delighted I found Geek Chic at Cover to Cover last weekend with several other of my Central Ohio blogger friends, and now, I can't wait to put it into circulation in my classroom. I think it will be very popular, and I know it will be accessible to a wide variety of reading abilities as well.