Sunday, April 11, 2010
Delightful Spring Treat for Middle Grade Girls!!
I've been so busy with my adult book reading the past few weeks, that I've sadly neglected my children's book reading. I rectified that situation yesterday with a visit to my favorite independent children's bookstore in our area, Cover to Cover.
I actually went in to buy three baby shower books, but it came as no surprise to me that I couldn't limit myself to just those three books. So, while I browsed and was assisted by the very knowledgeable Beth, I managed to find a few books I just had to have.
I am a huge Wendy Mass fan!! When I saw her latest, Finally, on the shelf, I knew I just had to have it.
I feel like Finally is sort of Mass's ode to girls of this age (11 - 13) who go through awkward phases as they try to discover who they are and what is really important (besides what all their friends have). I'm talking about the girls whose parents won't allow them to go to the mall by themselves, girls whose parents see no reason they need a cell phone even when "everybody else" has them, girls who want to have pierced ears but aren't allowed, girls who have no fashion sense, girls who would love to wear makeup but either aren't allowed or don't know how to apply it well or are horribly allergic to certain kinds of makeup and break out in welts when applying it, girls who wear big glasses because they haven't made the transition to contacs yet, girls who aren't allowed to stay home alone, girls who don't have many friends, girls who have younger siblings that can quickly take off their pants and run butt naked through Applebee's while the popular kids are sitting there watching and laughing, girls who have no idea about how to make conversation with boys.
The main character in Finally, Rory, is just such a girl. Rory, in addition to having the same name as a BOY in her grade, is a girl like the one described above. Her parents are very protective of her, and whenever she has wanted to stretch her wings a little, and asks her parents for something, they always tell her to wait until she is 12 years old.
The story starts on the day before Rory will turn twelve. In fact, frequently through the book, Rory has a countdown on how many hours, minutes, and seconds are left until midnight when the day of her birthday arrives. For years, whenever Rory has asked her parents for something, only to be told to wait until she was twelve, she wrote her wishes on scraps of paper, and kept them in a shoebox. She didn't want to possibly forget even one of the privileges she has so been looking forward to.
To add a little spice to the already quirky story line of becoming a 12 year old, Mass adds a movie being filmed at Rory's school, and an opportunity for the students to become extras in the movie. The reason this is such a big deal is that Jake Harrison, THE current heartthrob of all tweens, will be starring in the movie. When Jake actually notices and talks to Rory (almost always because of some unfortunate incident), the reader can't help but be happy for her.
Mass brings back three characters from 11 Birthdays -- Amanda, Leo, and Angelina. I don't think you have to read 11 Birthdays to still enjoy this story, but it did make it more fun -- I felt like I was in on the joke that no one else knew.
There are many laugh-out-loud funny parts as one awkward thing after another happens to Rory. But Mass wrote it in such a way that I didn't feel like I was laughing at Rory, but rather at the situational comedy of being a 12 year old. Most importantly, however, is what Rory realizes when she sees herself through other's eyes at the very end of the story. Turns out all those things Rory had been wanting for so long were not the things that make her the special, amazing person she is.
I will be sharing Finally with my class tomorrow. I already have many Wendy Mass fans in my classroom, so it will be fun to see how fast it flies out of my hands! I'm hoping they decide to read it together as a book club. I envision lots of fun conversation. It is truly a most delightful book!!!