Patrick, Denise Lewis. Meet Cecile.
Cecile lives in New Orleans in 1853. Her father is a sculptor, her brother is off studying in France, and her aunt and cousin live with the family after the death of Cecile’s uncle. Cecile takes music lessons and enjoys her neighborhood, but it is slowly changing. Ceccile and her family are gens de coleur libres, free people of color, and are just starting to feel the influence of the Americans who are coming to New Orleans and think of people of color as slaves. She meets an American girl, Marie-Grace, who shares many of her interests, and the two become friends. The big social event of the season is the costumed Children’s Ball, and this takes Cecile’s mind off missing her brother.
Strengths: As with many American Girl titles, this covers a specific and little known period of American History and is easy to read. The characters are engaging, and the sense of place is strong.
Weaknesses: I took a class once on race relations, and the situation in New Orleans at this time was not portrayed as quite as idyllic as this. (Although some problems are definitely addressed in this book.)Now I am curious!
Read an interview today with author Denise Patrick Lewis at The Brown Bookshelf.
Goldberg, Whoopi and Marilyn Roos.
Perfectly Prima (Sugar Plum Ballerinas #3)
Jerzey Mae loves ballet, but taking lessons with her sisters Jessica and JoAnn doesn't work all that well. Jerzey is a perfectionist, and while she loves ballet, she isn't good at it and doesn't find it to be fun. When she and her sisters are chosen to do a dance about three princesses, she's very excited and does everything in her power to improve her dance skills-- lots of practice, taping the teacher's remarks, studying all the steps. Nothing helps. When she is playing basketball with her annoying younger brother Mason, she realizes that what she is lacking IS the fun of it all. It's helpful that she realizes this, because when her sister breaks her leg and isn't able to be in the ballet, Jerzey needs to use her newfound confidence to find a way that the dance can still be performed.
Strengths: This is an easy to read book that would be great for 1st through 3rd graders who are interested in dancing. Jerzey's lawyer mother and professor father are very supportive and the interactions between Jerzey and her family and friends are very realistic.
Weaknesses: Jerzey's severe perfectionism makes me want to have her identified as being on the Autisum spectrum-- in fact, most of the characters are so extreme that I wondered about many of them! The proliferation of one-note characters took away from an otherwise good story.