Allie Finkle's Rules for Girls #1: Moving Day, by Meg Cabot
When nine-year-old Allie's parents announce that her family will be moving across town to a new house, Allie is pretty certain her life is over. They want to move from her modern subdivision and brand new school to a stinky old fixer-upper Victorian. And the worst part of it all is that she'll have to go to a new school and be "the new kid," unless of course she can figure out a way to stop their plans...
This first book in the series introduces readers to spunky Allie Finkle, a fourth grader who, in an attempt to achieve a bit of order in her ever-more-complicated world, creates a book of rules to live by. Some of her rules are universal ("treat your friends how you'd want them to treat you") and some are lessons she has clearly learned the hard way ("don't get a pet that poops in your hand"). Allie's frustration surrounding her family's move mostly comes from the fact that she had no say in the decision--a sentiment that many young readers will relate to. Allie does become a bit of a local celebrity "animal activist" when she stands up for a cat who is being mistreated by her friend, and then she rescues a turtle that she thinks is bound for turtle soup in a Chinese restaurant.
Amigas #1: Fifteen Candles, by Veronica Chambers
Fifteen-year-old Alicia and her friends live in heaven on Earth -- Miami, Florida. It's got everything a teenage girl could want, and their favorite social season of the year is just beginning! For Alicia and her friends, summertime is quinceanera time. These are the traditional, fantastic coming-of-age parties thrown for Latina girls turning fifteen. But this summer, things are changing. Alicia meets Sarita, a new girl in town, at a summer job they share and she volunteers herself and her friends to help plan Sarita's quinceanera. Alicia has grand visions of starting a quince-planning business with Sarita as her first client, but when she gets in over her head and turns into a quince-zilla, there may be no saving either the party or her friendships.
Fifteen Candles is the first title in the Amigas series that was inspired by the creator's desire to showcase entrepreneurial teens, particularly Latinas. Readers may enjoy her Q&A with Jennifer Lopez on the same topic at the end of the book. This is a wholesome and fun read that any girl who has ever wanted to start a pet-sitting or babysitting business will enjoy. Alicia was born in the U.S., but celebrates her heritage, in some cases even more than her parents who want to "Americanize." She learns good lessons about being a leader and when her group nearly falls apart, why micro-managing doesn't work. There are two responsible mentions about alcohol and teens -- one is that her parents throw large, all-night parties where no alcohol is served (and everyone still has a good time), and the second is when the girls are grateful that a sixteen-year-old friend is very responsible and would never accept an offered beer when he is the driver. There is a fair amount of high-end brand consciousness, particularly with Alicia, as her family is more well-off than those of her friends. Book 2 Lights, Camera, Quince will continue the story, but from the point of view of a different character.
The Reinvention of Moxie Roosevelt, by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel
Moxie has never felt like she has done her name justice. When she gets a chance to start over at a new boarding school, she decides to reinvent herself. Moxie has a hard time deciding on the numerous personalities she creates and tries them all on. Keeping a log of which personality she used around which person gets exhausting, and Moxie is having a hard time keeping up with herself! Everything comes to a head at the New Student Talent Show and Moxie has to muster up everything she has in order to get through the evening.
This fun and quick read also has a great message for young girls. The Reinvention of Moxie Roosevelt tackles the issue of wanting to be someone different than who you have always been. Lying and chameleon-like behavior (changing who you are depending on who you are with) results in near catastrophe, but is turned into a positive with humility and courage. Girls at the boarding school are all trying to be different or better versions of themselves, and what they all learn is that who they really are is the best version there is. This story is told with humor and wit, and friendship is stressed and valued. Family is supportive, though secondary, as characters live away from home. Relationships with teachers are positive ones. Tween girls will thoroughly enjoy Moxie and her trials and tribulations at boarding school, and will cheer for her when she triumphs in the end.
The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet, by Erin Dionne
Hamlet Kennedy wants nothing more than to fly under the radar, blend in, and be average. But eighth grade is much more complicated than she thought it would be. Hamlet has embarrassing Shakespearean scholar parents, her genius seven-year-old sister is in her classes, and mean girls are out to get her. When she discovers a hidden talent for performing Shakespeare, Hamlet learns that her life may not be as tragic as it seems, and that she is anything but average.
This charming and well-written book conveys an excellent message about being true to yourself and carving out your own place in the world. A complicated yet close relationship between two sisters is central to the story, which is refreshingly wholesome. Typical middle school mean girl behavior takes place, with the mean girls getting their just desserts in the end. Students are academically driven and one character has a high genius level IQ. Friendship is important and supportive, and an age-appropriate crush results in a kiss on the cheek. Language is very mild (jacka-s, jerk). All things Shakespeare are important to the plot, so readers who are not familiar with his work may need a brief explanation.
Cinderella (As If You Didnt Already Know the Story), by Barbara Ensor
This story is based on the familiar and magical fairy tale about a girl who loses her mother, gains an evil stepmother, and marries a prince. Several clever plot twists modernize this story. Cinderella mourns her mother through touching and funny letters. The prince is terribly spoiled. And do they really live happily every after? This smart book gives the full scoop on the traditional happenings from a modern girl’s perspective.
Girl Power! This updated version of the classic fairy tale is charming and funny. Readers will experience Cinderella’s metamorphosis from a self proclaimed “pushover” to an assertive Queen and diplomat. The prince overcomes his phobia of his own feelings, and has to learn humility and compassion before he can love Cinderella. In the end, the characters fall in love with each other not because of their beauty, but because of their traits. And yes, there is a happy ending, but only after they work hard on their “partnership of marriage” do they live happily ever after.
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