Monday, March 28, 2011

What I Read This Weekend

What I Read This Weekend . . .

The Summer Before (Baby-Sitter's Club) by Ann M. Martin -- Middle Grades Contemporary Fiction

This prequel to the beloved series brings back the characters from the original BSC books and shares the store of what happened before they formed the BSC. Kristy Thomas, Mary Anne Spier and Claudia Kishi have always been best friends. Now, the summer before 7th grade, they seem to be growing up and growing apart. Kristy longs for acknowledgment from her absentee father and is trying to avoid her mom's new boyfriend, Watson. She has her baby-sitting and her friendship with Mary Anne to keep her busy, but still, she wants something more. Mary Anne is dying to grow up, and envious of Claudia who is so pretty and stylish. Mary Anne hopes her father will let her baby-sit this summer, which she sees as the first step towards becoming grown-up. Glamorous Claudia wants desperately to be seen as as sophisticated, which means not hanging out with Mary Anne and Kristy as much and experiencing her first crush. Stacey McGill and her parents are preparing to leave their New York City home to move to Stonybrook, CT. Stacey would have been devastated a year ago but now she can't wait to move and get away. Since she started experiencing symptoms of diabetes, her former best friend has turned mean-girl and Stacy is a social outcast. She'll be sad to leave her baby-sitting charges though and hopes she'll find some new kids to love and maybe a new friend or two. The events of this summer will change their lives forever. This book is a nice, simple read aimed at girls who are just now old enough to begin reading the books for the first time. The plot deals with the transitional time between childhood and teen years and teaches some important life lessons. I thought it was a bit too moralistic and corny for my adult tastes but I loved revisiting the BSC girls. I can still relate to Kristi and Mary Anne and their favorite kids and all the supporting characters were fresh in my mind, though I haven't read the books in years. I enjoyed this trip down memory lane and I think girls could read this book before or after reading the series. Adult fans of the series might like this story too. I'd love to see a sequel with Kristy, Mary Anne, Claudia and Stacey as adults with children of their own old enough to revive the BSC!

The Teashop Girls by Laura Schaefer, illustrated by Suejean Rim -- Middle Grades Contemporary Fiction

Soon-to-be-fourteen-year-old Annie loves hanging out at her grandmother Louisa's beautiful, old-fashioned tea shop. It's cozy and familiar and makes Annie happy, especially when she remembers how she and her two best friends Genna and Zoe, used to hang out every day sipping tea. They loved the ritual and the history of tea. They were inseparable and called themselves the Teashop girls. Now with high school fast approaching, Gen is busy chasing boys and doing theater and Zoe is obsessed with tennis. Only Annie seems to have time for the shop anymore. Annie is thrilled when she successfully convinces Louisa to hire her, especially since there is a cute sophomore boy helping out with shop inventory. But when the lights go out in the store, Annie realizes that the shop is in trouble. She's determined to save the place she loves, keep Louisa in town and win the admiration of the boy she likes. With the help of Genna and Zoe, Annie embarks on an ambitious plan to save the shop. They have very little time and fear that their archenemy's parents are going to bulldoze the shop in favor of condos. As Genna and Zoe turn more to outside interests, Annie is hurt and confused but still determined to do whatever it takes to save the place she loves most in the world. Annie is very realistic and she deals with her problems in a practical, mature way. Her friends are rather stereotypical though and I would have liked the book better without the friendship subplot. The teashop sounds fantastic and I would love to live there. The real charm of the book lies in the drawings, vintage tea advertisements, anecdotes and recipes.  This is a sweet, inspirational story for middle-school girls who may be going through that difficult transition period from childhood to young adulthood.

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